Constanza Hola has created with ingenious direction a production where St Joan lives out her dramatic tale in the 21st Century.
With a modern soundtrack, an appearance of an ipad, and Joan entering chewing gum dressed as a gothic rock chick listening to her iPod, we know this will be no ordinary revival.
The Rose Theatre, Bankside, steeped in history is the perfect setting for Saint Joan. Bernard Shaw wrote St Joan soon after Joan of Arc’s canonisation by the Roman Catholic Church.
We follow Joan of Arc’s story, in which a young peasant girl hears voices that tell her to raise a siege against Orleans and to eventually crown the Dauphin at Rheims Cathedral. The voices that she is so sure are Divine Inspiration, lead to her tragic death.
Betrayed and convicted of Heresy and sentenced to the ultimate punishment of death, Joan accepts burning at the stake as preferable to a lifetime of imprisonment.
This cast of 7 actors are excellent and do a fantastic job of playing many different characters. All the performances are dynamic with boundless energy, with great characterisation.
Suzanne Marie has huge amounts of charisma and her quirky Joan is a pleasure to watch. We really feel for her when she explains her reasons for choosing death over imprisonment declaring ‘You think that life is nothing but not being dead?’
I really enjoyed Becca Laidler’s performances too, especially her librarian. Spencer Lee Osborne rose to the task of playing the most different characters, from a meek steward to the sinister executioner.
Cleverly the action takes place over the two levels of the theatre, making Joan’s death very dramatic.
The epilogue that sometimes drags in other productions keeps our attention by being filmed on location and shown to the audience on a screen.
The dress code may be modern but there are clever costuming hints to represent the characters as Bernard Shaw intended. After seeing this production I look forward to seeing more work of Constanza Hola.
This may be a small scale production but your enjoyment of it will be huge.
Review by Joanna Forest @joannaforest
15th May 2012