IDGTF: St. Joan – The Players Theatre, Dublin

First Published May 2015

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Writer: Julia Pascal

Director: Katrin Hilbe

A taxi journey in the mild summer of 1995 takes the audience on an interesting turn through history. St Joan is a powerful three woman play (Samantha Pearl, Juliet Dante, Rachel Halper) that investigates ideas of nationhood and women. It asks can St Joan save a life? Could she go back through time and rescue mankind from the horrors they inflict upon each other. The play sets out to explore national identity, race and the rôle of women in history and society. Representing women as both victims of history and as those who create it. The three actors take on different identities throughout, exploring French and English identities for example and how closely related they are at times.

Highly political St Joan addresses many key issues and links their history to their present. This helps to show how the same themes and ideas have been important over time, and that even though six hundred years have passed since the birth of Joan of Arc, equality and nationhood are still controversial topics in many place, not least modern France. Joan of Arc wants to fight the English out of France but would she be so quick to rid the France of today of non-nationals? It raises questions of what it means to belong to a nation, looking into the history of migration and colonisation to question whether anyone can really make a claim to a particular nation.

The writer Pascal, has taken an innovative approach to women’s history. The figure of St Joan is based on the 15th century French heroine and later Roman Catholic saint Joan of Arc; the ‘Maid or Orleans’ who wore men’s clothing and fought to free France from the English before she was eventually burned at the stake for her alleged crimes, which included witchcraft.

The staging is sparse. Metal poles and bloodied sheets portray strength and battles fought and still to be won. This is a visceral production which will hopefully be seen on the Dublin stage even after the end of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, of which St Joan is a part of. This short play is a fast paced, eloquent and well directed, keeping the narrative moving without ever losing the audience. It is a highly amusing and physical performance that is not to be missed.

Photo courtesy of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Runs Until May 16th 2015.

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 4*

Powerful

IDGTF: The Astonished Heart – The Players Theatre, Dublin

First Published May 2015

THEASTONISHEDHEART - IDGTF

Writer: Noel Coward

Director: Geoff O’Keeffe

The Astonished Heart by Noel Coward is a short performance running at just over an hour and playing to a packed audience as a part of Dublin’s International Gay Theatre Festival.

The audience are taken into the lives of Barbara (Michelle Reade) and Christian (Colin Walsh), a loving but not entirely happy couple in their mid – 30s. When an old school friend returns it challenges the dynamic. Barbara and Leon (Steven Masterson) instantly resume the closeness and humour that they had shared as children. Despite this, the connection between Christian and Leon is obvious from the moment they meet and Coward leaves the audience unsure of what path this relationship will take. Christian falls passionately in love with Leon but all involved are unprepared for the effect that this will have. A love triangle ensues with each character searching for love and acceptance, of themselves and within others.

The staging is minimal but effective. A bed, covered in bright red covers, takes centre stage, moving dependent on which couple are occupying the focus at that time. A blue heart, in two pieces, hangs above it and a drinks table and chair sits in the corner throughout. The sparse staging is effective and allows the story to unfold unhindered by an overly complicated set design.

One of the highlights of The Astonished Heart is the language which delves into the nature of love, relationships and acceptance without ever lecturing the audience, keeping their attention throughout. The trio of actors, from Behind the Moon Productions, work very well together to give meaning to Coward’s dialogue. Most performances at this year’s International Dublin Theatre Festival will be seen in light of the upcoming referendum on same sex marriage. This play does not sensationalise or try overly hard to make a point, instead it is so well acted and directed that questions of gender are never raised, it is simply a story of love.

The Astonished Heart is an intense piece of theatre that both entertains and leaves the audience contemplating its themes and ideas long after curtain call.

Photo courtesy of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Runs Until May 16th 2015.

Review Overview

The Public Reviews’ Score: 3.5*

Intense