Joan of Arc/ Jeanne d’Arc (1412-1431) was canonized as a saint for her role in the final phase of the French and Anglican Hundred Years’ War. As commanded by the voices of angels, the simple country girl made her way to King Charles VII who was convinced to send her to the Siege of Orleans, inspiring several important wins for the French. The young woman was eventually captured by a Burgundian faction, handed over to the English, and tried for heresy.
Joan is imprisoned in a small, white room with a wood floor. Dressed in boys’ clothing, cloth wrapping her hair, she has only a single sheet for comfort and warmth. We hear dialogue as she dreams of her family. Awake, the Maid of Lorraine converses with Saint Catherine (Monique Danielle), Archangel Michael (Simon Gagnon), and Saint Margaret (Lee Stone), who conveyed God’s instructions leading her on the path she followed.
Voices sometimes overlap or speak simultaneously and echo. Celestial sounds (nothing corny) and some vocal music create atmosphere that distinguishes these conversations. The overall effect, with original music and sound by Heidi Chan, is evocative.
“Are you here?” she asks. “How did the trail go?” she’s asked. Joan refuses to tell the truth because it would break confidence with “the man upstairs.” Though this is one of a very few phrases I’d’ve changed, general tone is essentially conversational, occasionally colloquial. It makes her more accessible.
Red lighting puts us intermittently in her recollection of the court room with a judge (Simon Gagnon, who, though fine as the Archangel, lacks gravitas here). The experience is described to her voices. In part, “I’m tired. They pick at everything I say. The guards won’t let me rest or mess with my food or forget it.” “Do not give up. Trust in us,” They say. She prays, sleeps, dreams.
Physicality is terrific – so many positions – curling in on herself in despair, striking out in frustration, stretching. Joan holds her ground in court; we hear the reasoning, then screams into the crumpled sheet. She’s accused of fraternizing with demons. Why, the girl wonders, isn’t she protected? She did everything she was told to do.
The Church implies it will offer mercy should she denounce so-called guidance received. It’s clear Joan doesn’t realize consequences and that the voices do. “How can the verdict be a surprise?” They rhetorically ask. “The path the Lord puts us on does not always lead to a pleasant end.” Advisors are surprisingly light-handed.
Joan’s final decision is whether to – go with God. How far will faith take a cold, lonely, frightened girl who feels at once forsaken by God and fervently devoted?
Katherine Teed-Arthur has written an engrossing piece of theater. Joan’s feelings are relatable, her expression that of a girl in an unfathomable situation. “Was it worth it for you, the martyrdom thing?” she asks Them. As Joan, innocence gradually torn apart, her choice is agonizing. Teed-Arthur is compelling to watch in stillness or argument.
A trio of directors, Max Cameron Fearson, Cara Rebecca and Lee Stone, manifest credibility and variety in a confined space. Pacing is excellent. The actress listens and is given time to react.
Michelle Ou’s Cinematography offers angles in keeping with emotion.
Photos by Michelle Ou
Friendly Bear Theatre Company presents
Joan/Jehanne by Katherine Teed-Arthur
Directed by Max Cameron Fearson, Cara Rebecca and Lee Stone
Katherine Teed-Arthur as Joan
Monique Danielle, Simon Gagnon, Lee Stone as the Saints, Judge and Joan’s mother
Original Music and Sound-Heidi Chan
Costumes- Robina Teed
Part of East of Edinburgh Goes Virtual
Curated by Jessica Hart, 59E59 Associate Curator, this virtual offering celebrates works that capture the spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe with a diverse offering of plays that transfer well to the digital medium.
The shows (there are nine) are available for audiences to view on-demand from July 15 – July 25 via the 59E59 Theaters website. The $20 ($18 for 59E59 Members) festival pass gives one household access to all nine shows. The pass can be purchased via www.59e59.org.