Saint Joan, Rose Theatre Bankside 12 May

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Picture from Rose Theatre site

To start with the important things:  there are no toilets and you need to go to the Globe, as the very friendly people here always tell you.  Also you really need to sit in the back row for this production, but not (as so often) to avoid audience participation.

When the thing started, I was bemused by the combination of what I thought were Portuguese songs and most of the male roles having been made female–as in the Lady Archbishop above.  I still have no idea of the reason for that, unless it’s easier to get hold of good actresses.  Was director Constanza Hola trying to get away from the idea that Saint Joan was a better man than those around her?  Or to emphasise that she was betrayed by her own kind?  I was also irritated by the Dauphin in his tiger suit, who seemed to be excessively useless even for the heir to the French throne (than which it is admittedly hard to fall any lower).  I think that the point of Shaw is that people stand around and argue with each other, and if you don’t like that you’d be better off staging something else rather than trying to distract the audience with extraneous action.

But I was quite taken by the trial scene, where everyone (almost) was trying to do what they thought was right.  And also the videoscreened Epilogue–the idea of Cauchon spending eternity waiting for a bus in the rain was surprisingly effective, as was the Earl of Warwick’s tennis practice.

Suzanne Marie who played Joan here was also la Pucelle in Henry VI Part 1 a year ago.  I thought her rock-chick/punk girl presentation was quite effective–one thing this show wasn’t was a vehicle for the actress giving us her Joan.  I also liked Davey Kelleher, a man actually allowed to play male roles.

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