Joan of Arc is a French heroine, nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans” due to her important role in the last third of the Anglo-French Hundred Years’ War. In their summer play this year, the University Players deal with her journey from voice-hearing farm girl to voice-hearing heroine. The play tells the story of her downfall from popular saint, who mobilized people to follow her into battle (and death), to heretic (spoiler alert) burned at stake. Now you know the ending of the play. Although it is commonly known how tragically heated her life ended up, the director perfectly managed to tell an old story in a new and vivid way.
The production made the most of the stage at the Audimax by using its limited space to its advantage. The set was reduced to pedestals at different heights and the background consisted of four white linen cloths hanging from the top to the bottom of the stage. Depending on the scene these were illuminated in different colours, which was very helpful for the viewer in following the plot and proved that less is more. The set design provided a well-balanced frame for the actors and created various sceneries at the same time.
The cast was an interesting mix of talent at first sight and those who unfolded their potential throughout the play. With strong actors on stage, serious moments were captured as well as were some well-timed jokes. The play also featured some singing, which was a little confusing at the beginning, but no worries, it’s no musical. After getting used to it, I realized that it both connected different scenes with each other and replaced the standard sound effects with something new. They were very good at striking the right chords and left me humming “we’re marching to the battlefield” for the rest of the evening. Thanks for that.
In addition to the singing, humming, and stomping there was a choreography. (Still not a musical, don’t be afraid.) It was beautiful and people tend to forget how difficult it is to learn.
Sticks are stronger than swords. This (apparent) design motto leads us directly to props and costume, the true heroes of the play. Instead of swords, the actors used sticks for various purposes: the multifunctional stick could be used as sword, scroll, stake and much more. Without the actual objects, the audience’s imagination was demanded and challenged, making the play more engaging. The costumes showed what sophisticated work was behind them, without which the actors would not have been able to switch roles so seamlessly.
In the final minutes of the play poor Joan, captured by her foes and abandoned by her allies, faces her punishment, dressed up in white. Just as people used her during her lifetime for their own personal causes, the other actors now represent different interpretations of her legacy after she has been burned at the stake. Joan as a believer, a hypocrite, a revolutionary, or a feminist. Nobody cares about what she had to say anymore, but instead her story is instrumentalized as a symbol for various causes.
“Joan of Arc” by Simon Deggim is a well-known story newly interpreted in a modern way. The play stands out for its inventiveness and creativity. Even for students it’s worth to spend the 6 Euro on a ticket. A final thought: I wish this was a winter production, this way it could reach the audience it deserves.
“Joan of Arc” still runs on 7, 9, 11, 12 June at 7.30-10 p.m. at the Audimax. Visit their website for further information.
– Naemi was listening to “The Ecstacy Once Told” by The Dolly Rocker Movement