Skip to main content

JOAN by The Rabble (Theatre Works)

The Rabble's JOAN

Darkness. Pitch darkness.

A heavenly light shines down on a woman praying. No, not just praying, throwing herself onto her knees, as an offer to God. Over and over again. In submission to Him.

It’s a hypnotic sequence; remarkable and already giving the audience a sense of unease. The act itself is physically demanding, almost punishing, but the glimpses we get of this woman – these women – are striking. This is Joan pledging herself to God in repetition.

No one makes theatre like The Rabble, though these black and white images and allusions to silent film, do bump alongside the remarkable work of Adena Jacobs and Fraught Outfit. What a treat that Theatre Works has programmed work from both companies this year. Fraught Outfit’s The Book of Exodus, Part I opens late in May.

Joan, like all of The Rabble’s work, takes a figure audiences will be aware of from history or literature – and in this case, both – and finds a fresh way to reconsider that text. Or that person. If we know of Joan d’Arc, we know of films and books and songs and poems that tell her story. We may only know the basics of her historic truth – the virgin warrior who claimed to be guided by the voice of God.

Creators Kate Davis and Emma Valente bring out a deeper consideration on the subject; what do we know of Joan that has contemporary resonance? What parts of her life might be better appreciated through queer, feminist theatre rather than the stories we’ve heard told by men throughout the centuries?

The black and white imagery is evocative of one of the early films of Joan’s life, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. Dreyer’s use of lighting and extreme close ups is striking and unnerving, striving for a kind of realism which reaches its apotheosis in the scene where Renee Jeanne Falconetti’s Joan is burned at the stake. It’s all too real.

Much like the Dreyer film, The Rabble’s Joan is silent for much of its length for two reasons: one, the strength of their visual elements tells Joan’s story through close-up projections and choreography, and two, much of this play is about women’s lack of voice. Joan’s voice, her truth, has been sublimated by the Voice of God and the repetition of her story that highlights her possible mental illness and, typically, her virginity.

Actors Luisa Hastings Edge, Emily Milledge, Dana Miltins and Nikki Shiels are all Joan. They all suffer the bruising physical punishment of dropping to their knees in prayer and, in various ways, being subjected to ordeals that prove Joan’s purity and corporeal worth.

From darkness, through the light of God, only to find themselves thrown onto a pyre, these women are dragged closer and closer to the flame – ready to be burned on the altar of history and the retelling of a story that rarely considers Joan’s bodily autonomy or her own voice.

The Rabble’s Joan is deeply affecting and troubling, but somehow this company, this ensemble, finds a way to give Joan back her voice – through the haze and under the bright light of a full moon. 

Darkness, no more.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Thing Isn’t Beautiful Because It Lasts: Avengers in the AGE OF ULTRON

The latest film in the Marvel Universe series feels like nothing so much as a season finale. And since Joss Whedon was once the master of creating season finales that were both emotionally satisfying and thematically resonant, it’s good to have him in charge for the second Avengers movie, Age of Ultron.
I’d like to compare it to the epic scope of Buffy’s “The Gift” but it feels more like Angel, if anything. Things change, the world moves on – and the best you can do is keep fighting. And embrace change.
Tony Stark has always been flawed, but by the third film in his own trilogy, he seemed to have found an emotional peace. But with that peace comes the idea that he can use his technology – his faith in machines being his tragic flaw – to create a replacement for the Avengers. He births an army of robots to calm the populace and fight alien foes.
Robert Downey Jnr’s Stark is such a towering figure in the Marvel Universe films – and to make him partly the villain of this new film is a s…

You are far away: Agent Cooper and his troubling return to Twin Peaks

“What year is this?” Dale Cooper asks in the final scene of Twin Peaks: The Return, the last of many unanswered questions left as the 18-part feature film concluded a week ago.
It’s far from the first time we’ve seen someone who looks like Dale Cooper lost for answers over recent months. But it might be the first time we have definitive proof that he’s in over his head.
Mr C, Dale Cooper’s doppelganger, who was first seen in the original series’ finale back in 1991, returned to the town of Twin Peaks with a goal in mind. Mr C was flexible, though. He had to be; he’d set so many things in motion over twenty-five years, if he’d remained fixated, he would never have come as far as he did.
Dougie, Dale Cooper’s tulpa – created by and from Mr C, wandered aimlessly through life, but slowly made every life he touched better. Plans change and Dougie changed with them. Slowly but surely, Dougie pieced together Cooper’s past life and became richer for it.
Agent Cooper, the third part of this T…

Melbourne Comedy Festival – Garry Starr Conquers Troy

Last year, Garry Starr explored every genre of theatre in order to try to save it. Now that he’s saved theatre, he wants to make sure actors out there know how to be the best skilled actor (or, skactor) they can be. Garry has written a book called “An Actor Pretends” about the history of pretendism.
Chapter by chapter, Garry’s vast knowledge of being a triple threat is explored on stage in front of our very eyes. He explains how to audition for a director when you’re waiting on them in a restaurant. He tells us how to act when we inevitably move to Hollywood and get botox and we can’t move our face. And then there’s his unconventional method for learning lines by osmosis.
Rubber-faced actor and comedian Damien Warren-Smith is so damn charismatic that he’ll have you on his side within minutes – and have some of you up on stage as part of Team Garry, if you dare. If you don’t want to participate, don’t sit in the front row like I did; though my moment in the spotlight only consisted of…