As Joan of Arc places her armour on, her face lights up: “It imagines me afresh”. Her bra becomes her balls and she is ready for action. We are with her, providing the soundtrack, laughing, doing our best to keep in time and our minds off the ending we already know. Joan’s destiny stretches out from the minute she opens her mouth and calls to St Catherine, her saint, the goddess. Joan uses a woman in the audience’s mobile phone to ring her. She’s gets through! I’m relieved she didn’t ask me. I’ve got no credit. Joan would’ve enjoyed taking the piss out of that – she knows how to work her audience.
At the centre of this show is the incredible Joan herself, Lucy Jane Parkinson (Drag King LoUis CYfer) and the lyrical, beautiful language she speaks. Presented by Joan as everyday thought, she asks us to imagine the sunrise as sound; her battle charge as “tender, broken, hurtful and hoping.” These words themselves raise Joan above us, although she doesn’t realise her own greatness, such is her humbleness. When Joan exclaims on the eve of battle: “I am the sun” it is a self-knowledge that feels mystical and contrasts with the repeated “feralness” of war and fighting and politics and plotting. Her gregarious warmth and hilarious songs create a real human before us with a large beating heart.
Joan tells her story not with weariness, but with a galvanising defiance throughout. Lucy Jane Parkinson skilfully transforms Joan into the men who try to control her: her father, the Dauphin of France and her Judge. The Dauphin in gold sequins raving and singing about “citroen hearses” is truly magical. Yes, Joan is earthy and real and wants to give us a laughs up until the very end. She may try to save herself and go through the motions of being a “girl” but she never once removes her balls. She is inspiration for every person who doesn’t fit in with the gender binary. The story goes that she finally condemned herself by going back to dressing as a man. Here, through humour, the final rebellion she enacts is not contrived, for one fact is clear throughout: Joan is simply being herself and this, it would seem, is the only heresy. In this respect her martyrdom takes on new urgency and is quite rightly reclaimed.
Joan was on as part of PULSE 16. For more of their programme, click here.