Cate Blanchett Slips Into Couture and Carnage of Jean Genet's Murderous Maids

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07 Aug 2014

Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett

Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett, starring in Jean Genet's The Maids at City Center, discusses the 1947 plays relevance to a 2014 audience as well collaborating with her husband, Andrew Upton.

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When one thinks of Cate Blanchett, the two-time Academy Award winner who is often hailed as one of the world's greatest living actors, the words "crude" and "unhealthy" don't often come to mind.

But Blanchett, who has previously graced the New York stage in acclaimed performances of A Streetcar Named Desire and Uncle Vanya, will next star in Jean Genet's The Maids, a violent and controversial work that was described with those unflattering adjectives following its 1947 premiere at the Théâtre de l'Athénée.

Inspired by the Papin sisters, servants who infamously murdered their employers in 1933 France, Genet's work, brought to New York by the Sydney Theatre Company, will play City Center as part of the Lincoln Center Festival.

Blanchett co-stars with Isabelle Huppert as her fellow servant, with whom she creates elaborate sadomasochistic rituals about murdering their employer, Madame, played by Elizabeth Debicki; Benedict Andrews directs.

The Papin sisters' murder scandalized society, but the two went on to achieve infamy, hailed as martyrs and revolutionaries by Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. And the play's fame has also endured over the years: It was adapted into a 1974 film directed by Christopher Miles and a 1994 chamber opera by Swedish composer Peter Bengtson.

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