The original text
It was first performed at the Théâtre de l'Athénée in Paris in a production that opened on 17 April 1947, which Louis Jouvet directed. A film adaptation of the play was released in 1974. Genet loosely based his play on the infamous Papin sisters, Lea and Christine, who brutally murdered their employer and her daughter in Le Mans, France, in 1933.
Translations and adaptations
Translated into English in 1963 as The Maids by Bernard Frechtman.
Although the roles were written for female actors, all-male productions have successfully been staged, for example the production by Maralin Vanrenen in Cape Town in 1974 and another production in Moscow in 1992.
Performance history in South Africa
1970: In July the Libertas Theatre Club presented The Maids in the Libertas Theatre in Stellenbosch, directed by Annelize van der Ryst, with Marianne Roux (Claire), Sharon Montgomery (Solange) and Marie van Heerden (Madame).
1972: PACT Drama staged The Maids in the Arena at the State Theatre, directed by Barney Simon, with Barbara Itzler (Claire), Molly Seftel (Solange) and Carolyn Sacks (credited as "Carolyne Sacks") (Madame). Designed by Richard Cook and Ingrid Jansen. This production also played at the The Space in Cape Town.
1974: Maralin Vanrenen made her directing debut at the The Space with the English translation, staged with an all-male cast consisting of Bill Curry, Vincent Ebrahim, and Pieter-Dirk Uys. It only played for Club audiences. Originally to be played in drag, but finally done without props or costumes. As a result of interest in the first drag version, the final Sunday saw the original production followed by an audience participated discussion about the differences between the two plays.
1991: The Afrikaans translation by Wim Vorster, Die Diensmeisies was presented by PACOFS at the National Arts Festival (opening 30 June) and at the André Huguenet Theatre, Bloemfontein (opening 9 July), under the direction of Vorster with an all-male cast, viz. Hendrik Baird, Christo Compion and Ernst Eloff. Decor design by Johnny Boerstoel.
Theatre programme held by NELM (Phoenix Players): [Collection: SIMON, Barney]: 1995. 11. 19. 144.
PACT Drama theatre programme, 1972.
PACT Drama theatre programme, 1987.
PACOFS News, 17(3), 1991.
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