Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Nationalist, heroine, witch, feminist, bisexual, schizophrenic, martyr… Who was St Joan? The only useful saint is a dead saint. Three women from different cultures revisit the past as Joan of Arc.
Julia Pascal reclaims St. Joan as a twenty first century Jewish, Black Londoner who travels back in time to change two terrible histories that were perpetrated by Christian Europe. In medieval France, Joan of Arc saved France from British domination. Pascal asks “I am a saint because I saved France from the English . . . Where was the Joan of Arc to stop the holocaust of Black and Jew?” Through tableau, physical movements and poetry she deconstructs Joan’s history and portrays her as a modern warrior fighting against white European supremacy.
The action starts on a hot summer day when Joan Rabinowitch is crossing London in a taxi. The driver is a Hindu who describes reincarnation. Later Joan goes to sleep and dreams of becoming Joan of Arc, reliving her trials and battles. With Joan, the audience time travels to various events in history, encountering victims of the Black and Jewish Holocaust.
The scenes are not linear and jump from one time period to another through physical ritualized movements accompanied by chants and beautiful choral work. Pascal recalls the pains of history and the crimes committed on minorities to gain dominance and invoke ethnic cleansing. Through this subjugation the victors created empires rife with violence.
In the wake of today’s upward swing of anti-Semitism in some European countries, Pascal’s script provoked me to ask: Are we in need of another Joan of Arc to save us from repeating history’s most tragic events?
Katrin Hilbe’s direction is stunning. She sets up stage pictures that evolve seamlessly throughout the action. The three actresses are of multi-ethnic European, American, African, Jewish, Christian and Muslim descent. Juliet Dante, Rachel Halper, and Gehane Strehler give fierce, passionate performances.
The script, cast, and direction are filled with passion and should be playing to bigger audiences. Pascal and her company are asking important, relevant questions and I was totally engaged in the physical and verbal language presented. I highly recommend St Joan.