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The Maids (Les Bonnes, here translated by Bernard Frechtman) is Jean Genet’s most oft-revived work for the stage. First performed in Paris in 1947, its action was inspired by a real-life scandal, the murder by two maids, sisters Christine and Léa Papin, of their mistress and her daughter. Genet’s maids – Solange and Claire – occupy themselves, whenever their Madame is out of doors, by acting out ritualised fantasies of revenging their downtrodden status. But when the game goes beyond their control the maids are compelled to try to make their fantasy a reality.

‘The most extraordinary example of the whirligigs of being and appearance, of the imaginary and the real, is to be found in [Genet’s] The Maids. It is the element of fake, of sham, of artificiality, that attracts Genet in the theatre.’ Jean-Paul Sartre


Jean Genet was born in Paris in 1910. An illegitimate child who never knew his parents, he was abandoned to the Public Assistance Authorities. He was ten when he was sent to a reformatory for stealing; thereafter he spent time in the prisons of nearly every country he visited in thirty years of prowling through the European underworld. With ten…

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