The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl
Set in the sterile white house of successful doctor Lane, we meet Matilde, a Brazilian maid, who is in mourning for her parents who died laughing. Cleaning depresses Matilde, who would rather use her time to invent the world’s funniest joke. Fortunately Lane’s sister Virginia loves to clean and secretly takes over Matilde’s job.
Sarah Ruhl describes her play as being “about cleaning as transcendence, spiritual cleaning.” It is a blend of the real world and the imagination, with characters that transcend time and space, and is both moving and very funny.
Andrew Bellchambers has designed an amazing set that gradually deteriorates from a sterile white showpiece into chaos. Stage manager Amy Leeder must work small miracles to restore the pristine opening image every night. Costumes by Alicia Clements are a beautiful character statement. Ash Greig’s score and lyrics are thoughtfully chosen, and bring further layers to the text.
The performances are outstanding. Sarah McNeill is captivating as organised and efficient Lane, whose world crumbles around her, Carol Burns is lovely as overlooked and cleaning obsessed Virginia. Brooke Satchwell is thoroughly believable as offbeat but intense Matilde, using what I am assured is a flawless Portuguese accent. Hugh Parker works nicely as confused Charles, while Vivienne Garret lights up the stage as exotic Argentinean Ana.
A passionate play that has huge emotional resonance, without leaving the audience emotionally wrought. A testament to the importance of loving and laughing.
Photo: Brooke Satchwell, Vivienne Garrett, Sarah McNeil and Carol Burns