Surprisingly reverential examination of the cross-dressing saint
This article is from 2016.
Set in a time somewhere between 15th-century France and contemporary Britain, Milk's presentation of the life of Joan of Arc happily plays with time and place, but shows a respect both for Joan's spirituality and her more secular struggles as a woman in a man's world. Lucy Jane Parkinson – better known as drag king LoUis CYfer – leads Joan from her innocent beginnings to her final execution with charisma and effortless skill. As her power grows, Joan shakes off her peasant anxieties, even enlisting the audience to perform as her troops.
Despite her northern vowels, Parkinson inhabits the religious world of early modern France. Her relationship with St Catherine is central to her crusade, encouraging her in battle and in the courtroom: her impersonations of the Dauphin and the priest who condemns her are shot through with a sensitivity, even as they touch on very post-modern notions of identity and celebrity.
The ending is a little predicable – Joan's faith is undermined by her death – but the journey is a fantastic blurring of gendered identities: when she tries to escape her fate by performing femininity, Joan is hilariously inept. The script, by Lucy J Skilbeck, makes broad points about gender identity, yet never quite loses sight of Joan's historical context. Witty, intelligent and full of careful audience participation, this Joan spans the ages to become a historical harbinger of feminism and a proto-queer activist.
Underbelly Cowgate, run ended.