DramaLondonReview

The Second Coming of Joan of Arc – Etcetera Theatre, London

Reviewer: Riley Powell

Writer: Carolyn Gage

With time, it is only sensible to presume that the truth will inevitably dilute– and as a prominent, sometimes misunderstood figure in history, Joan of Arc reincarnated comes to set her record straight.

Simultaneously debunking myths and exposing truths through creative perspectives and contemporary outlooks, playwright Carolyn Gage’s The Second Coming of Joan of Arc incorporates a unique twist to Joan’s story with its emphasis on feminism and queer identity.

Joan of Arc “come again” is an enticing premise, especially in its promise to encourage conversation surrounding gender equality from both a historical and current standpoint. As such, it is easy to sympathise with Joan’s fight for identity and self-sovereignty in a world determined to keep her in a box. Her plights harbour a significance that still holds today, making for a relevant rendition of a historical figure’s story. Catinca Maria Nistor’s performance as Joan continues to elevate this meaning, as well as the audience’s sympathy, through her ability to depict the depth of the traumatic events throughout Joan’s life.

It is an inspiring tale, particularly in its resounding declarations about gender inequality. And due to history’s tendency to view women’s stories as “nonessential,” The Second Coming of Joan of Arc supplies an account that we, as the audience, can appreciate– even if it is dramatised. Incorporating queer elements into the story by portraying Joan as a lesbian, for example, makes it relatable to a contemporary audience and thus heightens the story with its progressive standpoints. That said, the story sometimes misses its mark. Joan’s attitudes surrounding femininity, marriage, and sex are, at times, unrelatable– particularly regarding the opinion that having sex makes a woman “foreign” or having “given up.”

The set design similarly seeks to pave the way for new perspectives through its intimate setting. With no props besides a chair brought out midway through, this performance stays strictly between Nistor as Joan and the attending audience. It is an interesting move that is appealing in theory but comes across more as a class lecture than as a play. Setting up the play as a conversation is undeniably fresh but could be enhanced with props or re-enactments rather than depending solely on dialogue.

While its execution does occasionally fall flat, the ideas that Gage introduces in The Second Coming of Joan of Arc make for an interesting story and Nistor’s performance as Joan is notably moving.

Runs until 31 March 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Enticing premise

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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One Comment

  1. Although this play is supposedly “setting the record straight”, historians have debunked almost all of its claims. See for example the following analysis at the Medieval History Database website:
    This Review Hub article seems to go along with the “setting the record straight” idea while ironically taking issue with the play’s anti-sex theme even though that’s one of the very few elements that is historically authentic since one of Joan of Arc’s main themes was chastity (she constantly called herself “the maiden” or “virgin” (“La Pucelle”) and said she had made a religious vow of virginity; eyewitnesses describe her hitting prostitutes with her sword to drive them away from the troops). The lesbian angle in the play was invented by the playwright and has no historical basis, as the above-linked MHDB article covers in detail. Likewise for the idea that she was fighting for “identity and self-sovereignty”, an issue which I think is also covered in that article.

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