Taylor Swifties is an entertaining reimagining of The Maids by Jean Genet. It serves the original, which it references effectively to be relevant to the current age, well. The production is generally tight and has very good performances from the Isabella Niloufar and Tanya Cubric.
You can be whoever you want to be – and right now the me I want to be is Taylor Swift.
Swifties is a new adaptation of the Jean Genet classic, The Maids. It has been reimagined by Tom Stenton to reflect a contemporary image. The play was presented for a brief season earlier this year and is currently playing at Theatre N16 in Balham.
The original is immediately recognizable in Swifties. The audience enters to find two young women, the maids in actuality if not occupation, play acting as their pop idol Taylor Swift. The girls have won a competition and are preparing to meet Tay Tay. The pace is frenetic and heavily theatricalised which heightens the drama and defines the difference between real and imagined.
In Swifties, Tanya Cubric begins as the maid who play acts being Taylor Swift. She gives an admirable representation of a vacuous pop ideal who hands out life experience lessons between songs. Isabella Niloufar plays the second girl and alternately grovels to the ‘star’ figure and then plots her demise before becoming very aggressive as the meeting draws closer.
As in the original, the end point of the playacting is the murder of the absent authority figure and, just as in the original, the girls are prevented from concluding their murderous intentions. In the machinations of their fantasy, the girls have given false information to the press stating that the star’s boyfriend has assaulted one of them. Their plot is foiled when security is beefed up around the star and access is denied.
The energy and flow of the play works well with only a slight dip in the middle section with some unnecessary repetition. Director Luke Davies has ensured otherwise that the frenetic pace is well maintained throughout.
The whole play is enclosed in a border of pink lights on a stage so compact that the girls have to crawl over and around each other with emotional intensity. Both actors commit totally to their characters and Niloufar particularly so in her angry scenes.
Background music plays an integral part in this production and is a very effective tool. It appears to be operated onstage through a iPad. In that style of heightened theatricality, the girls select the music that belongs to a designated section of their play acting. The soundtrack of Chariots of Fire is used every time that there is a serious theme and of course the music of Taylor Swift punctuates the action regularly.
Swifties is entertaining and serves the original well. It reflects the age of celebrity in all its vulnerability and awfulness.