Saint Joan no easy task
Culture / November 18, 2014
Arts Club takes on difficult play and succeeds with grace.
By Samantha Thompson
Saint Joan, the Arts Club’s latest production, is a difficult play to watch. The cast is fantastic, but in fact it is their passionate, realistic portrayal of emotion that makes the three hour-long play a gripping, yet exhausting experience. It is difficult to watch the actors scream and cry, and even fear for their lives—but it is a journey worth taking. Too often in theatrical productions we go solely for the escapism, for a fun night out. These reasons are certainly valid at times, but it is Saint Joan’s ability to make you think, and I mean really think, that makes it a must-see production.
Saint Joan was written by George Bernard Shaw in 1924, and tells the life story of Joan of Arc—her rise and fall. A young Joan manages to lead the French army in fighting English occupation, and from then on the story follows her life wrought with conflict. In addition to telling that tale, the production raises complex questions of church and state, gender roles, god and religion, and nationhood and the value placed on borders. You will leave the theatre still contemplating these questions, as well as the nature of the tragedy itself.
Complete with powerful monologues, every word in this play is filled with intent and purpose—something very characteristic of Shaw. The simple set design should be appreciated, as the production does not need bells and whistles to detract from the powerful acting that is taking place on stage. Instead, the minimalist set is reflective and respectful of the sombre themes that run throughout the three acts.
Meg Roe as Joan was a smart choice, as she embodies the role with strength and realism. At times it becomes easy to forget that you’re sitting in The Stanley, not in a foreign land bearing witness to horrific events. I cannot say enough good things about the casting choices, but another standout is the role of Captain Dunois, played by Daren Herbert. On stage he is a force to be reckoned with, and he and Roe share a chemistry that makes any scene with the two of them a pleasure to watch.
The actors’ lines are complemented by the strong vocal prowess of chorus, and the physically demanding feats the cast perform throughout–including, at one point, a literal scaling of the wall. It is a stark reminder that the Arts Club is not afraid to take risks with their productions for the sake of the piece.
It is not often that the Arts Club takes on a mammoth of a play like St. Joan. But with this production they’ve demonstrated that they have the ability to tackle a difficult piece and do it well.
Saint Joan is at The Stanley theatre until Nov. 23.