I, Joan at The Globe: A Review
Currently, The Globe Theatre is home to the lively and bold retelling of Joan of Arc, ‘I, Joan’, which received criticism before it even arrived on the stage
Written by Charlie Josephine and directed by Ilinca Radulian, ‘I, Joan’, is the powerful and joyous new play that tells the story of Joan of Arc with a fresh new perspective.
“The men are all fighting, again. An endless war. From nowhere, an unexpected leader emerges. Young, poor and about to spark a revolution. This is Joan. Rebelling against the world’s expectations, questioning the gender binary, Joan finds their power and their belief spreads like fire.”
This production faced criticism very early on for taking a feminist icon and stripping her of her femininity. However, this play takes Joan’s story and imagines what it might have been like if the language we have now was around at that time. At its heart, it is a story about what it means to be human. Anyone who might have any doubts about this play should quickly dispel them.
The Globe released a statement on ‘I, Joan’ and Identity, stating, “We are not the first to present Joan in this way, and we will not be the last. Regarding the use of pronouns, ‘they’ to refer to a singular person has been traced by the Oxford English Dictionary to as early as 1375, years before Joan was even born. Regardless, theatres do not deal with ‘historical reality’. Theatres produce plays, and in plays, anything can be possible. Shakespeare did not write historically accurate plays. He took figures of the past to ask questions about the world around him. Our writers of today are doing no different, whether that’s looking at Ann Boleyn, Nell Gwynn, Emilia Bassano, Edward II, or Joan of Arc. The Globe is a place of imagination. A place where, for a brief amount of time, we can at least consider the possibility of worlds elsewhere. We have had entire storms take place on stage, the sinking of ships, twins who look nothing alike being believable, and even a Queen of the fairies falling in love with a donkey.”
A rousing battle cry
This piece feels theatrical and rousing and exciting, with Joan’s army made up of Groundlings, it is an honour to join them on their journey of self-discovery. With a live band positioned directly above the stage, a fantastic set design on which actors slide in and out of the action, and amazing movement direction you really feel like you’re preparing for battle. Josephine’s use of language combined with an extraordinary performance from Isobel Thom (they/them) makes for a truly captivating show. It felt truly magical to stand amongst such a diverse audience at The Globe and watch this story unfold. And, whilst it could be painful at times, it really captured the essence of what it feels like to not fit into society’s boxes or labels. The language was often repetitive, reinforcing the notion of having to explain yourself over and over again to every new person you meet.
Ultimately though, throughout the course of the play, as more and more people were plucked from the crowd to join Joan’s army, it really felt like I was a witness to, and a participant in, something truly special.