Joan at the Ovalhouse TheatreCultureTheatre
To produce a one-person-musical in which a drag king plays Joan of Arc, and some of the most important men in her life, might seem odd to some at first, but it is of course perfectly logical. Joan of Arc’s choice to eschew the typical gender roles of her time are superbly represented in Joan as a drag performance. On the surface, the piece is about the life of a Catholic hero; but at its core, the message is about being true to who you are, gender be damned. It’s as important a message now as it was when the real Joan of Arc was alive.
Lucy Jane Parkinson (otherwise known as Drag Idol UK winner Louis Cyfer) is exquisitely earnest in her portrayal of Joan of Arc. By injecting the role with not only comedy but heart, Parkinson ensures that the production is a joy to watch. Her comedic timing has to be seen to be believed, and her chemistry with the audience is so polished, viewers will swear it’s been rehearsed.
The performer’s delivery is often wonderfully understated, however, there are also moments where the pure poetry of her lines deserve more attention. She handles the pomp and swagger of her drag personas with aplomb, but the weight of writer Lucy J Skilbeck’s more choice phrases would have benefitted from slightly more gravitas.
While individual lines are beautiful, the overall tone of the play is slightly jumbled, and anyone who hasn’t recently read up on the life of the real Joan of Arc might have a hard time following the finer points of the plot. Even though, going in, most audiences will be aware of how it all ended for their protagonist, Joan’s final act is so downbeat that it still manages to be surprising. The fact that Parkinson can squeeze both tears and uproarious laughter from an audience is nothing to scoff at; however, the bleak ending remains at odds with the rest of the comedy. But even with these shortcomings, the piece itself is still a genuine pleasure to watch, largely thanks to its leading lad/lady.
Joan is at the Ovalhouse Theatre from 11th until 22nd April 2017, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Joan here: