Writer and Director: Lucy J Skilbeck
Reviewer: David Doyle
You might know St. Catherine from the Catherine Wheel, and you almost certainly know at least something of Joan of Arc. JOAN is their story, or at least it will be once Catherine shows up, until then this is about Joan. Lucy J Skilbeck’s exploration of the life of Joan of Arc combines elements of theatre and cabaret to create a powerful exploration of gender and oppression.
Performed as a solo-show by Lucy Jane Parkinson, JOAN utilises elements of drag to bring to the fore its exploration of the gender politics of Joan’s life. Parkinson’s performance is sensational and effortlessly charming. It is the use of drag king performance that elevates the piece dramatically. The decision to have transformations overt and played out on stage as part of the performance is an important one that foregrounds the grander themes of the piece.
The choice to explore the life of Joan of Arc is a quietly political one. Taking a prominent figure within the Catholic faith and reinterpreting their life through queer performance is a gamble but one which in the deft hands of Skilbeck and Parkinson pays off. The piece never feels needlessly provocative and instead keeps a breeziness that makes it all the more gripping in its final moments.
At a time when gender and the expression of one’s gender are under constant scrutiny, JOAN provides a powerful and insightful look into the subject through one of history’s most famous people. In doing so Skilbeck has managed to add to the current discussion while interrogating the legacy of history. The piece always manages to keep a lightheartedness to what it’s doing, and this coupled with clever writing, and a majestic performance makes the show a powerful and astute look at gender.
Runs until 29 August 2016 (not 15)