Composed by: Lucy J Sillbeck
Performed by Lucy Jane Parkinson
I wouldn’t usually go to watch a historical piece, if I saw that a play about Joan of Arc was being put on somewhere I’d likely give it a wide berth. However, Joan’s reputation precedes it, and by word of mouth alone I couldn’t turn this one down. And sure enough it would have been a huge mistake to.
On entering the theatre, Lucy Jane Parkinson (Joan) greets us, she’s friendly, welcoming, you feel at home. Although Joan is a little flustered as Saint Catherine hasn’t turned up, Parkinson is at ease on the stage, she’s grounded, yet raw, relaxed, yet fierce and we lay complete faith in her as a performer. Accomplished drag King, she takes on three male roles within the show, each having an accompanying song, which for me were the absolute gems of the evening. I looked around to see the audience grinning as much as I was during each number; all down to Parkinson’s flawless comic timing merged with slick song lyrics.
At one point, Parkinson gives each side of the audience a role in the battle. I was firing a cross bow, I love a bit of safe audience participation, and she held the space well for this. Her wicked sense of humour paired with breakneck improvisation skills, mean that she frequently responds to the audience with the most hilarious adlibs in seconds.
It’s a skilfully constructed piece and the best thing about it is that it highlights everything queer theatre should be in 2017. Yes (perhaps) we still need plays about homophobia, AIDS and ‘coming-out’, but I think we need work like this much more. This is fun, moving and full of chutzpah. Lucy J Skillbeck is dreaming in to a space that I’m not sure many others are at the moment, which is what makes their work particularly special.
There are many reasons for you to go and watch this piece, one of which is that Skillbeck not only brings the story of Joan kicking, screaming and singing in to 2017, but has crafted something which will no doubt speak to a broad audience. In a time where LGBT communities are still being tortured, tedious debates over which toilets transgender people should use still rage on, when being LGBT+ is still seen as other, it lays out how startlingly little has changed in some places since the 15th century. Though you’re left with this sentiment, the show never preaches, or shouts, or tells you what to think – it guides you gently to the place where you make the connections for yourself. And it’s fun, it’s very fun… You reach most of your conclusions by laughing.
On at Ovalhouse (London) until 22nd April. Book now.
(C) Amie Taylor 2017 // @AmieAmieTay