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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

 

The Rose, Bankside
presents

 

Saint Joan

 

Robert Pikwo Photography
 

by Bernard Shaw

 

Director - Constanza Hola Chamy

 

Assistant director/Stage manager – Alex Pearson

Audiovisual designer – Diana Vucane

Make up designer – Carolina Garibay

Movement advisor – Sebastián Concha

 

The Rose, Bankside

 

8 May – 1 June 2012

 

 

Roberta (Cornella Baumann) in a vest and combat trousers duo arranges a pillow bearing a “keep calm and carry on” slogan and assembles the set, box by box while dancing her way around the stage. From the very off, the audience is under no illusion that they will witness a conventional take on Shaw’s Saint Joan. Constanza Hola Chamy has plastered her vision all over this wonderfully irreverent enactment. The appearance of heroine Joan (Suzanne Marie) cements the subversive tone and she lays her stocking-clad legs over every available prop while speaking so fast, that were every word she uttered not laden with significance, ridiculousness would ensue. Each phrase she utters heaves with poignancy as she lures one into attempting to understand the motivations and impulses of Saint Joan in her quest to inspire bravery and confidence in her compatriots.

The play works its way through Joan’s interactions with, or seductions of, every party she encounters, culminating in her grave trial for heresy upon which the dramatic tension hinges, and during which each actor shines with consistency and without deficit. Becca Laidler’s Inquisitor is, in equal parts, earnestness and commerce, and directs the trial through to its complex ends with emotive force. Ladvenu (Grace Kennedy), enacts her compelling involvement laced with compassion and reluctance and remains faithful to Joan, protesting her innocence to her bitter end. Grace Kennedy’s Archbishop is a force to be reckoned with by way of composure and comic earnestness in the face of Joan’s lustre.

Though the stage space at The Rose is minimal, the bay on the fringes of the original stage is incorporated into this production to house the celebrations following Charles’ (Chris Eastwood) crowning and Joan’s demise, to a Clash soundtrack. Would-be king Charles’ (Chris Eastwood) tiger costume and general demeanour is infantile to the point of being irritating, traits which are purposely carried into his second role as The Chaplain at the trial of Saint Joan when he heckles the speakers and shares a noisy bag of sweets with disgruntled audience members. Joan spurs him into a leadership he is narrowly equipped to endure with her infectious enthusiasm and positivity.

The final scenes are relayed through audiovisual means designed by Diana Vucane, as the characters tell their ever-after stories from banal locations in London such as bus stops and park spaces in a very modern and thought provoking twist. Combined with the insistently punk soundtrack, female religious leaders and fetishist pious undertones, this take on Shaw’s Saint Joan is not for the faint hearted traditionalist. If, however, you can take an open mind I suggest you run to The Rose since you will scarcely see Joan interpreted with such a daring and intense approach. Constanza Hola Chamy’s direction teases out elements of Joan that might be lost under a less intrepid director, and it is fitting that Shaw’s Joan should be revived so audaciously at The Rose, where Shakespeare’s Joan premiered in Henry VI part I in 1592.

 

 
 
Tickets: £12/10 conc.
www.rosetheatre.org.uk
0207 261 9565
The Rose, Bankside
56 Park Street SE1 9AS
 
 

 

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