IT'S: a play by George Bernard Shaw
09-12-2016OPENED: December 09th, 2016
LOCATION: Donmar Warehouse
ADDRESS: 41 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LX
CLOSEST TUBE: Covent Garden
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Saint Joan is a new play in London starring Gemma Arterton as the famous historical figure.
It’s showing at the Donmar Warehouse from December 9 to February 18. A live broadcast at various cinemas by National Theatre Live will occur on February 16.
Crimes Without Villains
Written by George Bernard Shaw, ‘Saint Joan’ chronicles the life, trial and death of Joan of Arc, as well as her later elevation to sainthood.
Shaw wrote in the preface that “there are no villains in the piece.” Rather than portraying Joan’s enemies and accusers as completely evil, he depicts everyone involved in the tragedy as people who acted in the way they deemed best based on their personal beliefs.
For this choice, Shaw has received both praise and criticism: praise for showing the grey areas in a situation that many other writers present in black and white, and criticism for attempting to redeem the people responsible for burning a 19-year-old girl alive.
Whatever your stance on that topic, ‘Saint Joan’ is arguably one of the most important historical plays ever written. It’s well worth watching at least once.
A Modern Interpretation
This production of ‘Saint Joan’ is directed by Josie Rourke.
Some of the dialogue has been cut, bringing down the run time to under three hours (when normally it’s closer to four). Referencing current political and economic issues, the production juxtaposes the modern with the medieval.
In one of the first scenes, Joan in full medieval attire is dropped into a boardroom filled with men in business suits. In another, an armored Joan with a sword and cross stands center-stage while a television screen in the background broadcasts stock market updates. Joan becomes a walking anachronism.
There have been mixed responses to these production choices, but Gemma Arterton’s performance has received high praise from most reviewers. She delivers an engaging, mesmerizing Joan, continuing to prove that her command of the screen extends to the stage.
Jo Stone-Fewings, Niall Buggy, Fisayo Akinade and Rory Keenan also bring stand-out performances to the production. In a show that relies so much on pure conversation and argument, actors have a chance to truly shine, and this cast does not disappoint.
For a pre-show dinner, head to recently opened Margot, located nearby in Covent Garden. You can refer to our interactive map of new places to eat in London for more dining options in and around the West End.
Words by Brittany B.