Leave It To The Maid opens in the midst of a snowstorm, with Grayson Chroma (Ben Welshman) and his wife Rose (Rosie Hunt) preparing for a delightful anniversary dinner. In the first of many twists and turns, Grayson’s mother Olive (Isabel Da Silva) arrives unannounced, bringing with her the gruff and mysterious Cole (Aaron King). To add to the drama, the household maid Amber (Jemma Coombs) can seem to do no right, speaking out of turn and stepping out of place. It is a complex balance of characters and plotlines, yet handled well, with strong characterisation and a brilliant build-up of tension. We learn about the tricky pasts that bring together and tear apart the ensemble, inching towards an inevitable climax come the anniversary dinner itself.
Costume and set are beautifully designed, with 50’s style garments made suitably smart or gaudy where needed; praise in particular goes to the styling of hair into neat retro curls. The home feels almost lived-in with its bookshelves and record player. Given that the story takes place entirely within the home, the production does a good job of creating the impression that doors lead out into further rooms for guests, laundry, and into the garden. The Chromas are a rich, albeit dysfunctional, family, and the exploration of generational wealth contrasting with youthful romance winds into a key point of tension.
In terms of performance, this show moves between highs and lows. It is highly impactful to see scenes of intimidation and domestic violence played out, and to depict the response of women who must continue living in harmful situations. A highlight is during the scene of the anniversary dinner, where a loose-lipped Olive lets out that Grayson has been unfaithful, and Amber has fallen pregnant. Hunt’s look of anguish and despair while trying to maintain order is a powerful moment of acting.
However, perhaps due to the small size of the venue, it often feels as though conversations and arguments are shouted with more volume than necessary, detracting from the content of the piece. Additionally, the show is let down in its second half by farcical comedy; while the blundering Detective Indigo (Lily Barker) was met with audience laughter, this largely undermined the tension that had been built so well in the first act. This is not a fault in acting, but the stark shift in tone during a murder investigation feels out of place given the largely serious content of the first 60 minutes.
Leave It To The Maid is a compelling piece with plot twists aplenty. This production evokes 50’s nostalgia while tackling themes of women’s subjugation and class conflicts, creating a truly intriguing whodunnit that remains unresolved until its final moment. It is a highly promising piece of writing from Kian O’Callaghan with great moments of suspense and multi-dimensional characterisation.
Written by: Kian O’Callaghan
Directed by: Abby Patrick and Kian O’Callaghan
Produced by: KO Company
Leave It To The Maid plays at Drayon Arms Theatre until 2 September. Further information and bookings can be found here.