JOAN - MELBOURNE
JOAN, The Rabble at Theatre Works, 20-30 April 2017. Photos - above Luisa Hasting Edge; below - Dana Miltins and Emily Milledge
The lights go out. It is pitch black. Your eyes start to play tricks, floating white images appear – was that an angel? Then an eye, wide open staring at you, then it closes and morphs into a bird or an amoeba; then the wide, terrified eye again. An open screaming mouth. It is both beautiful and disconcerting.
Joan, the story of Joan of Arc, is presented in four parts. Light, body, fire and voice.
They continue to play with light and dark behind the scrim as the many “Joan’s” appear and disappear, falling to their knees, arms raised in submission. Stealthily moving from spot to spot just out of light. It is repetitive and mesmerising.
The body. The invasion of her mind and body as they seek to check her virginity; steel prods and demeaning fingers. She tries to protect herself against the onslaught by tying her clothes tightly together with rope. Meanwhile, there’s another Joan being continually thrust onto an unlit pyre over and over and over again, reflecting the public trial. Her guards seem proud of their abuse.
A grass skirt is hung off a steel prod and burnt, the smell and smoke permeates the theatre as we watch the fire. Again, your eyes playing tricks through the haze as we are left with the embers of a womb.
Each actor (Luisa Hastings Edge, Emily Milledge, Dana Miltins and Nikki Shiels) perform monologues and narrate from differing perspectives. The text is poetic, discordant and revealing.
The staging, lighting and direction by Emma Valente leaves us in no doubt that this is an important piece of work. And it’s clear that you can’t help but take the play and performances with you when you leave as the smell of smoke has penetrated clothes, hair and mind.
The Rabble, again, have given us great theatre to ponder.