Joan filters historical qualities of gender through a fourteenth century legend and a classic cabaret vibe. It’s centred around an almost music-hall central figure in the person of champion drag king Lucy Jane Parkinson, who takes on roles and costumes to reframe Joan of Arc through intimate connection and historical reflection. It says valuable things about ideas of gender and society’s relationship to the changing dynamics of its representation - Joan of Arc not just as a legend or symbol, but a real woman who put on armour at a time it was unheard of. Joan with short hair. Joan as a canvas for drawn-on moustaches and someone whose clothes change their movement. Joan as a peasant girl and as a saint, as a soldier and as a leader.
Four corner mirrors form a cross in the centre of the performance space, with the audience positioned between them. They look across to each other throughout. It’s delivered in the round to facilitate this easy interaction, alongside the participation required at several key points. Two men are invited up to interact with Joan, teaching her their walk, or standing in for an imagined partner. There’s an implicit questioning of their behaviour in their laughter and conversation. The presence on stage of audience members encourages this examination and perhaps reveals some assumptions about gender that might otherwise never be actively considered. The audience laugh with them in their unsure stance and their self-consciousness as they are asked to perform their maleness.
As funny as the show is, as good natured and enjoyable, there are also moments of loss and hope stand out in stark contrast to the rest of the easy monologue. Parkinson looks to heaven with the same wide-eyed hope as Renée Falconetti. Another Joan, represented in another form, but one as serious as any other, meditating on loss, identity and the burden of history.
- Lewis Church
Links relevant to this diagnosis:
Joan of Arc - Biography.com
Gender Identity - Young Stonewall
Gender Variance Around the World Over Time - Teen Vogue
Le Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (Extract) - Starring Renée Falconetti, directed by Theodor Dreyer (1928)