“Spiritually touching and thematically inspiring, the cast and crew of I, Joan shone through their commitment to their character and production…

Durham University Performing Arts’ production of I, Joan was an achievement in the retelling of the story of Joan of Arc, performed through a queer narrative and perspective. The Assembly Rooms Theatre stage was lushly layered with stage deckings, designed by James Fox Robinson, and invites you back to France, in the middle of war, in search of God. Spiritually touching and thematically inspiring, the cast and crew of I, Joan shone through their commitment to their character and production. 

We follow the historical story of Joan of Arc, played by Emma Henderson, whose stage presence was strong ever since right at the beginning. Directed by Kate Moore, and shadowed by Annie Gidney, Henderson performs a series of very strong and well-directed monologues at the audience, staying true to the play’s commitment to not shy away from their objective and the message that they are adamant to convey through the play. Highlighting queer experience living in a world dominated and led by men, Henderson’s portrayal of Joan is powerful, and whoever you are sitting in the audience seat, you are bound to be transported into their shoes.

Henderson’s presence on stage is strongly supported by other actors around them. Matt Bacon, portraying Thomas, must be commended for how well he complemented Henderson’s character with a gentle sense of mildness next to Joan’s fiery passion. Oggy Grieves, playing Charles, was also a great source of energy on stage, providing the cast with a slightly more comedic presence, that was at times very much needed to break up the tension throughout the play. 

The dance number, choreographed by Henderson themselves, was an interesting take on the idea of going into battle and fighting, and the metaphor shown through the level of energy in which it was performed was of great interest to myself. Although it did get slightly repetitive towards the end of the show, it showed great dynamic on stage and particularly created a powerful statement through their own ensemble. It did an excellent job of representing Joan’s journey and their courage – the highs and lows of it. 

I have nothing but compliments to give to the Production team, overseen by Production Manager Hamish Campbell. While at times the play seems to be quite long and that pacing could be slightly tighter, the lighting alleviates this by constantly keeping the show in the move, and showing different kinds of setting through gobos and colours. 

I, Joan was a delightful production celebrating queer joy and the experience of the individuals who might have been erased from history-making. It was courageous at heart, and in this day and age, that is exactly the kind of story that we need to keep hearing.

By Ayasha Nordiawan

I, Joan will continue to be shown at 19:30 on Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th of January in the Sir Thomas Allen Assembly Rooms Theatre

Photo Credits: DU Performing Arts