Writer: Julia Pascal
Director: Katrin Hilbe
Reviewer: Laura Marriott
A taxi journey in the mild summer of 1995 takes the audience on an interesting turn through history. St Joan is a powerful three woman play (Samantha Pearl, Juliet Dante, Rachel Halper) that investigates ideas of nationhood and women. It asks can St Joan save a life? Could she go back through time and rescue mankind from the horrors they inflict upon each other. The play sets out to explore national identity, race and the rôle of women in history and society. Representing women as both victims of history and as those who create it. The three actors take on different identities throughout, exploring French and English identities for example and how closely related they are at times.
Highly political St Joan addresses many key issues and links their history to their present. This helps to show how the same themes and ideas have been important over time, and that even though six hundred years have passed since the birth of Joan of Arc, equality and nationhood are still controversial topics in many place, not least modern France. Joan of Arc wants to fight the English out of France but would she be so quick to rid the France of today of non-nationals? It raises questions of what it means to belong to a nation, looking into the history of migration and colonisation to question whether anyone can really make a claim to a particular nation.
The writer Pascal, has taken an innovative approach to women’s history. The figure of St Joan is based on the 15th century French heroine and later Roman Catholic saint Joan of Arc; the ‘Maid or Orleans’ who wore men’s clothing and fought to free France from the English before she was eventually burned at the stake for her alleged crimes, which included witchcraft.
The staging is sparse. Metal poles and bloodied sheets portray strength and battles fought and still to be won. This is a visceral production which will hopefully be seen on the Dublin stage even after the end of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, of which St Joan is a part of. This short play is a fast paced, eloquent and well directed, keeping the narrative moving without ever losing the audience. It is a highly amusing and physical performance that is not to be missed.
Photo courtesy of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Runs Until May 16th 2015.