Do you hear voices and have visions? Have they ever driven you to action? Do you feel compelled to do as requested—no matter what?
For generation after generation, horrendous “voice”-driven crimes have been explained away as temporary insanity—frequently allowing their perpetrators to be exonerated at best or escape the death penalty at worst.
But what if your “call to action” comes unequivocally—to the listener—from a divine source? Surely any resulting actions will be sanctioned and blessed by Him (or more infrequently, Her).
And so co-director (along with Scott Dermody), creator-performer Sarah Thorpe has challenged herself to wrestle with the short life-and-death struggles of illiterate, cross-dressing Jeanne d’Arc to actively listen to her saintly instructions and near-singlehandedly liberate much of France from the dreaded English and see the Dauphin (Charles VII) rightfully take the throne.
In large part, Thorpe succeeds in this “modern retelling” of history. Playing the heroine and a baker’s dozen of supporting roles, Thorpe readily soars through her tautly written scenes with authority, compassion and just the right amount of pathos.
The only major quibble is with the device of using the stage floor as a literal chalkboard, frequently etching words and symbols to reinforce the action. Unfortunately, anyone beyond the first few rows of the intimate confines of Theatre Passe Muraille had to stand from their perches (blocking the view of others) to observe much of the handiwork. As well, that approach produced more the effect of a university lecture than a fresh view of long-ago events.
Thorpe’s eloquent, pitch-perfect delivery is more than enough to make her points—surely her hands have better things to do.
Behind the scenes, Randy Lee’s lighting plot was effective and appropriately dramatic as the entire venue—at one point or another—was brought into the mix. Jakob Ehman’s and Wesley McKenzie’s sound design was aurally in tune with every turn, be it reverent chants or flesh-consuming flames.
The few costume/props readily convinced as Thorpe seamlessly assumed her different roles—most hilariously the blue moustache on a stick for the philandering Dauphin.
Perhaps the best scene of all was doomed Joan wondering just why her God had forsaken her? Were the voices—in fact—a mental hallucination? Or were they the result of a similar conundrum of faith: actually producing the “worst thing in the world” in Room 101 described in George Orwell’s 1984, if that just happened to be Big Brother himself? That is, if the heretic’s saviour did not really exist…. Or was she actually in league with the equally invisible devil? JWR