Joan

Thoroughly entertaining, cleverly written and immaculately performed. These are the words that spring to mind when describing this production. The stage was sparse but the drama was presented with full force. Performed by former Drag Idol, Lucy Jane Parkinson, the defiant yet ultimately tragic tale of Joan of Arc was a marvel to behold.

Parkinson is clearly a very talented performer and her teaming up with Skilbeck is inspired

For a show that was at risk of being rather cliché, a Drag King playing arguably the first female male impersonator, was actually a really interesting take on the well-known medieval account. A very modern Joan took on her historic predecessor well and the show was entertainingly punctuated by drag performances of a very contemporary style. The mixing of historic and contemporary worked exceedingly well and the transitions were effortless thanks to her captivating stage presence.

Sat in a circle at the Marlborough Theatre, Parkinson had all eyes on her. Cleverly placed mirrors granted the audience full view of the performance and she returned their confrontation with witty spells of interaction between scenes.

A particularly amusing and quite outstanding part of the show came when Joan divided the audience into four and had us all make different sounds of war. From horses to crossbows, to male chanting and even cannon fire, it was an interesting idea that under her authoritative instruction was definitely pulled off.

Writer and Director Lucy J Skilbeck has done an exceptional job with this show. The lyrical text and original songs were the perfect blend of comical and solemn as Joan struggled with her predicament, being guided by the spirit of Saint Catherine and ultimately let down by those she served to please.

Had it not been let down by its closing scene, this would have been a five star performance. Being burned at the stake is of course a very dramatic end to her story, but it did slightly over tip the balance and struggled to wade out of its own melodrama at the close. The climax was too intense and prolonged to be enjoyable and was unfortunately detrimental to the overall show. Throughout, the audience had been treated to a range of emotions from the character, but the more sombre notes were always interspersed with light hearted ones that, thanks to great writing, made the perfect juxtaposition and should have continued right through to the end.

That being said for the most part, it was an extraordinary and well produced show. Parkinson is clearly a very talented performer and her teaming up with Skilbeck is inspired. The drag elements didn’t overpower but were definitely a welcomed foray and allowed Parkinson to showcase yet more of her acting abilities. Whether you’re a history buff or just like a bit of drag, this show is a definite must see and a credit to all those involved.

Reviews by Bethan Troakes

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Performances

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The Blurb

Packed with guts, heart and some well placed couscous, 'Joan' is a new play which fuses lyrical new writing and drag king cabaret. An earthy story of courage, conviction and hope - this is Joan of Arc. [newline] "Comic fizz, emotional ballast and cross-dressing that looks like sorcery" (The Guardian)