ALL PHOTOS BY LISA TOMASETTI
Hello friends. I was asked if I would write a review of The Maids for the Australian Book Review. I may have the chance contribute an occasional few over the year to this a nicely respectable and somewhat upmarket site. It was not easy to come to an apt response to this latest imaginative and edgy production by Benedict Andrews, given the limited word count (800 words) – a discipline from which I had been liberated (for better or worse) since I launched this mostly theatre review blog. Here I am, for ABR, responding to a readership possibly quite different to my blog-reader regulars. No mucking around, I played my evaluative role very straight – ie: no wandering off topic. NO slacker style. I over-ran my word limit so there were a few cuts made - judicious I thought. A couple of bloopers (my fault for not properly checking the proof) have made their way through to the print version, but corrected here for this online version: so please go to this link to read my
I put quite a bit of thinking into it and finding the right words. Please note -just as Claire and Solange alternate identities as well roles. so do I . I have fixed the add-on pars here (and photos) .There are a couple of occasions in the ABR when I confuse Blanchett’s Claire with Huppert’s Solange. Just mentioned are the roles each plays. While we are at it, I want to post a link to Lloyd Bradford Syke’s review at Crikey online. Not only does he get the casting right and agrees with me on several points. But he adds something missing from my review which has been weighing on my conscience since I posted it. For all our reservations about the production (and Syke is tougher than me on director Benedict Andrews), he gives over some paragraphs to the acting - the excellent, verging on brilliant performances by all three actors: Cate Blanchett, Isobel Huppert and Elizabeth Debicki. To come in so hard on some aspects of the production and not acknowledge its areas of achievement is both insulting to such high-calibre actors and poor criticism (if that’s how writing about this work online can fairly be described). So I encourage you to go to Syke’s review – not just for the ‘negative’ points we agree on, but also take a look at his paragraphs on acting – which with, in hindsight I whole-heartedly concur. When a friend in the profession kindly pointed out my mixing up of names, he reminded that my blog has one eye on the historical record. That’s true, so a good reason to get the casting right. But also fill in the yawning gap: regarding references to the performances. In whatever circumstances wee were lucky to have three such fine actors all on stage in Sydney together.
One paragraph I cut from the ABR review before I presented it to them, for want of space had to do with the casting. Say if you are stuck with the inevitability of Cate Blanchett, Isabelle Huppert and newcomer Elizabeth Debicki. We have a situation here on stage that many have commented on: the ‘maids’ did not look anything like sisters (Blanchett and Huppert), and further credibility is diminished in the fact that we have one sister (Blanchett) speaking Australian. And the other (Huppert) not only in English with a heavy french accent, but also so fast, many of her lines were lost – on the opening night audience at least. We also have a beautiful blonde (Blanchett) and Huppert with dark hair and rather plain looking (I don’t quite know how that is achieved given Huppert is one of France’s more visually spell-binding screen actresses?)
That we have a problem - and a suitable solution – arrives when young Elizabeth Debicki flaunts in midway through the action. For a newcomer, up against two superstars it’s dazzling to watch her maintain total power. Blonde and beautiful and with an Aussie accent I think ‘Debicki could easily be Blanchett’s sister’. If six inches taller.
So here was my thought. Why wouldn’t you cast Debicki and Blanchett as the sisters. And Huppert as Madame. She’s on stage for less time, but you could hardly say the role of Madame is less significant. More importantly, her different’ look’ would make more sense. More so her French accent, which could be genuine or ‘fake’ (put-on to delineate superiority), would transform itself into a very big positive.
That’s all for now. I hope you do go read my review for ABR link above. And can I say in passing. Just as this posting is way over due, so is my review of Angels In America – which in a single word is ‘fabulous’. Want more? ‘Perfectly cast’ and ‘very well directed’ by Eamon Flack.
Why the delays? My National Library work at the moment – the typing part – is taking up pretty much all my time. As my source of income (and fascinating work it is) I am way overdue with a pile of stuff. Some good news (I hope), quite soon my website is going to be redesigned with more options for me as post host and for you as reader. More stuff, a wider range of subject areas, more often, in various categories and formats. So don’t give up on me just now. Keep an eye out – this site will probably flip over to its new look in about a month. That’s the plan – will report in on progress here and on FBook.