A young peasant girl receives visions from an angel instructing her to support a French victory over the English and end a 100-year war. She insists on a private meeting with the future king of France and receives it. She then accompanies the king on her envisioned siege and they win. Not too long after she is captured by the English, trialled and burnt at the stake. Joan of Arc, The Maid of Orleans, saint, lunatic, martyr, witch, liberator – a figure of much speculation and intrigue whatever you believe.
Australian playwright Paul Gilchrist picks up from this very point. 10 years later provincial France is still suffering the blows of war. The people are starving and they’re disillusioned. In walks a young peasant girl who claims to receive visions from an angel. It’s Joan, Again.
JOAN, AGAIN tackles the frequently discussed but seemingly insolvable topic of faith. What do we believe in? Who can we trust? How should we live our lives? Is “Joan” a lying, destitute prostitute or is she a specially chosen woman of God sent to liberate the people? It’s one word against another.
Gilchrist makes an earnest crack at the faith debate and while his characters engage in gutsy discussion, often the wordiness and slow pace create a lag in action. Two diametrically opposed figures – Joan and a Royal Inquisitor – find themselves in the same tiny town. Sparks are bound to fly but the set-up takes too long, leaving the play finishing at the climatic point you’ve spent two hours waiting for. The fight against these grand, opposing sides never quite takes place. The crackers are loaded but they are never let loose.
The cast work together well, with a particularly standout, quirky performance by Sylvia Keays as Joan. Liam O’Keefe’s lighting design and Rachel Scane’s set design do well to create a bygone era of France.
It’s good to see new Australian work in Australian theatres (thank you Sydney Independent Theatre Company). Looking forward to seeing new works to come.