Saint Joan @ Donmar Warehouse Theatre
Cast Includes Gemma Arterton as Joan
Running Time: 2 hours 30 mins inc. interval
The role of Joan in Saint Joan has been compared to being the female version of Hamlet – she is a mass of contradictions, a rural farm girl who is also capable of leading an army, and balancing the character’s fervent devotion to God with a passion to do what she believes is right. The play revolves around her – Bernard Shaw wrote it so that her struggle is central even in the parts in which she does not appear.
The Donmar’s current production does a lot to show how Joan is different from those around her – not only is she the only female cast member, she is also the only character in period dress amidst a sea of business suits and modern screens and projections – not only does this brings the text up to date with a relevancy to current day, it highlights that Joan is special and emphasises her position.
Gemma Arterton is a revelation as Joan – she brings a contained zeal to the role that makes it easy to see how she gets what she wants and how she inspires those around her to defeat the English in France. She also plays her with an innocence at the start which makes it all the more interesting as she becomes more stubborn and proud throughout, right up until her trial for witchcraft. Arterton is phenomenal even from the start in which the audience enters with her on stage, silently praying and worshipping God.
The other cast members are fantastic – Fisayo Akinade’s Dauphin is deliciously foppish and lazy is humourous in the first half, and the other cast members as the army commanders are brilliant as they initially dismiss Joan only for them to change their minds on meeting her. The cast are a great ensemble and play off each other well – the piece is absorbing and the actors hold the attention over the course of the 2 and ½ hours.
Summary: a strong, compelling production with a great ensemble cast and a star turn from Gemma Arterton. ****