'The Maias' review or 'Portuguese passion peters out at Greenwich Playhouse'

The Maias, novel by Eҫa de Quierós, adapted by Alice de Sousa
Greenwich Playhouse, Thursday 10th March 2011
Written for Time Out

She's watching you - especially if you live in 19th Century Lisbon

Apathetic dilettantes lurk lazily in every corner, maids and masters shack up in the bushes and passions rule over intellect. This is the world of Eca de Quieros’ novel, ‘The Maias’, which takes a satirical sweeping glance at a nineteenth century Portugal in decline. It is exciting to see Greenwich Playhouse take a chance on such a fiery and unusual piece but, although this staged version is packed with heady affairs and even incest, the production feels ploddy and pallid.

Actor and producer Alice de Sousa’s script is functional but lacks lyricism and drive. The lovers – Doctor Carlos da Maia (Damian Quinn) and ex-lady of the night Maria Eduardo (de Sousa) – meet deep into the play. Their ill-fated union comes too late and their stilted emotional outpourings (‘I love you – with all my heart!’) turn the stomach rather than stir the soul. 

The peripheral characters, almost all layabout fops, frequently discuss the fierce Portuguese temperament yet rarely display it. For a piece so steeped in Lisbon life, ‘The Maias’ feels bizarrely British. Director Bruce Jamieson steers a steady ship but the journey is dull. The lights fade out with each scene change and the romance, instead of boiling blisteringly beneath the surface, is systematically heralded by soaring strings.


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