Joan of Arc
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Rep ensemble Faction Theatre stage Schiller's thrilling play about the fifteenth century miracle woman.
You’d expect there to be one woman who really kicks ass in Friedrich Schiller’s 1801 play ‘Joan of Arc’. But three hard-as-nails women are the no nonsense steel balls of The Faction’s refreshing production.
Obviously there’s young virgin Joan, the rural shepherdess who has a vision, finds a helmet and heads off to annihilate the English armies on behalf of the French. But there’s also Sorel, the true love of the Dauphin (soon to be King Charles VII), who tells her husband to man up and get back to the fight; and Isabel – estranged, angry mother of Charles – who is the vengeful force behind the English armies. The three of them are the ones who drive this story, manipulating the strings of the men around them.
Though Schiller’s play is based on true events it’s pretty loose with the facts. If you’re expecting to see Joan’s famously fiery end, you’ll be disappointed. Nevertheless, on the basis of ‘Joan of Arc’ it’s clear why The Faction aim to stage every single one of Schiller’s plays: it’s beautifully written and very thrilling. Unlike Schiller’s original, Mark Leipacher’s adaptation is not much of a tragedy. But it is poetic and generally pretty clear – though things get muddled when Joan has a wobble about her mission. It’s an important moment that feels side-lined and as a result the rest of the plot gets a little confusing. Her subsequent drastic changes in opinion and direction (is she on a celestial mission, or isn’t she?) are not just God working in mysterious ways, they are the script needing a little more work.
Kate Sawyer as Joan is forthright, balancing a noble modesty with an absolutely ferocious battle cry, while the support around her is very strong, particularly Natasha Rickman who plays both Isabel and Charles, and entirely transforms in each role. Leipacher also directs, along with Rachel Valentine Smith, and they keep things very simple, using a great conceit of clay and flour as helmets, swords and blood.
It’s a vibrant whirlwind through the life of a fifteenth century miracle woman, and her counterparts who couldn’t give two hoots about the patriarchal age they lived in.