Interview with The Maids director Jamie Lloyd

Jamie Lloyd is one of the hardest working directors in the West End. Known for his collection of new musicals, revivals and punchy productions of classic plays, his self titled company have been resident at the Trafalgar Studios for the past two years. In that time Jamie has created sell-out reinventions of classics such as Macbeth and Richard III alongside modern hits such as Pinter's The Homecoming and Peter Barnes' The Ruling Class.

Lloyd is fearless in both his directing and his programming, and his company have been responsible for drawing new crowds to the theatre and introducing new plays to a wholly diverse audience. The season continues at the Trafalgar Studios with a powerful new revival of Jean Genet's play The Maids in a new version by Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton. Almost sixty years old, the play has been seen around the world, and continues to resonate with new audiences thanks to its powerful message and its ability to reflect concerns in wider society.

We spoke to Jamie Lloyd ahead of previews for The Maids, which faces the critics this weekend to find out more about the play and the decision to bring the text to London. We also used the opportunity to look further ahead to his upcoming revival of Doctor Faustus which stars Kit Harington in the title role.

Watch a video of our interview:

DOH: What's important to you when selecting a programme for The Jamie Lloyd Company?

JL: There's a consideration for the seasons at Trafalgar in terms of location. There's the fact that we're on Whitehall, only steps away from the centre of British politics, Buckingham Palace is round the corner – we're in the seat of British establishment. I love the fact that we can create productions that have a political dimension, or at least plays that chime with our times in some way and can enter into conversation with the real world. We can perhaps provoke and inspire debate or discussion and trigger some response in the audience rather than just allowing them to settle down and have a jolly nice at the theatre.

DOH: Diversity in theatre is currently a very hot topic – The Maids gives you an opportunity to work on a play with an all female cast – how important is that in terms of programming a season?

JL: I think we are as a company very conscious of attracting a diverse audience to the productions that we create and therefore you want to see that diversity on stage quite frankly. The Homecoming was a very masculine play although there was a very strong female character in the centre of it. The Maids quite frankly has traditionally been played by young men, although Jean Janet didn't specify that that was to be the case, there is a case that it can be seen as a queer piece of theatre in terms of exploring that kind of dimension, sexuality and eroticism. But you give it to three amazingly strong women – this powerhouse trio of incredible actresses, you're giving them a stage and a platform to say we are here and ready to take on these meaty roles that are generally exciting. There are also two black women playing leading roles in the West End and that's very exciting for me.

Not only is the cast all female but I'm in the minority as a white male and it's brilliant. Everyone from the dialect coach to the fight director to my associate director are all women. I'm practically doing rehearsals in drag just to feel part of the team. I seem to get more and more camp every day. I might slip on a pair of heels and you know 'work it'. It's good fun.

DOH: Looking further ahead, what can we expect from your production of Doctor Faustus?

JL: I think Kit Harrington is one of the most exciting young actors around. He's looking for a new challenge, he's fearless. He's going to jump in whole heartedly. It's going to be an anarchic production, there's going to be a kind of bizarre black humour in the version that we're using. The two central acts that probably weren't written by Christopher Marlowe have been re-written by a contemporary playwright called Colin Teevan – they are very very witty new scenes that chart the journey of Faustus more significantly and it allows for a very bold, inventive, surprising theatricality in the production.

DOH: Are you worried about what may change when your company move to a more conventional playhouse?

JL: I'm hoping we can take with us the spirit of energy and adventure and be as bold and as theatical as we've been here. I think at the Duke of York's it will feel anarchic. How the whole space, where people may emerge from and how we include the audience in a different way excites me. Seeing the whole auditorium with the £15 Monday's audience and feeling that energy will be exciting. Trying to open the company up to a bigger audience and the ambitions of the productions, what we can do aesthetically will be bigger. We have a desire to move on and see what we can do with new challenges.

The Maids is running at the Trafalgar Studios from 20 February to 21 May 2016.

Doctor Faustus runs at the Duke of York's Theatre from 9 April to 4 June 2016.

- Edited by Dom O'Hanlon

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