JOAN OF ARC
by Friedrich von Schiller adapted by Mark Leipacher.
New Diorama Theatre 16-17 Triton Street NW1 3DF In rep to 28 February 2015.
7.30pm 10, 13, 17, 20, 26-28 Feb.
3pm 21 Feb.
Captioned 17 Feb.
Runs 1hr 55min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7383 9034.
Review Timothy Ramsden 7 February.
High drama gains from few means.
In their annual January-February march through Friedrich von Schiller’s play, The Faction has reached the 19th-century – and the 15th. Schiller’s Die Jungfrau von Orleans dates from 1801, presenting a very different Joan from William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part I, where her triumphant idealism is the mask of a cursing diabolic charlatan.
Schiller’s Joan rebels against rural convention and a future as a wife on the farm. Even in defeat she rises to receive the contrition of those who had turned against her for being a sorceress. As a warrior she stops herself killing an enemy in whom she sees the beauty of purity. As a heroine, that is, Joan fills the role of a typical Schiller hero, dying in moral glory. Her father opens the play with a celebration of the free Frenchman on French soil now threatened by England. Political freedom and moral purpose till the dramatic ground as much here as in any Schiller play.
Such a large-scale piece could use vast resources. The Faction wisely don’t let that stop them. The company’s sets are always minimal, relying on space, shape and levels rather than representation of location, with colour coming from group tableaux of actors.
There’s a bit of that here, particularly as cast-members form the tree where Joan receives her inspiration. But, with white lighting and a few rostra along the back of what might be a drama studio anywhere, Mark Leipacher and his ensemble meet the challenge of this elaborate drama by focusing on performances.
This year’s seems the most all-round accomplished company The Faction has assembled for its winter seasons. Kate Sawyer is a regular member and her Joan, ethereal as well as military, in clothing and manner is separated from the rest of this world, where her admirers, who exude the kind of passion inspired by Mary Stuart in Schiller’s previous moral-political drama, are strongly played on both sides of the conflict.
Bernard Shaw’s St Joan may be recalled in this adaptation and its final array of views on ‘the Maid’, but Leipacher expresses the soul of Schiller’s play with his usual acuity.
Lionel/Duchatel: Tom Brownlee.
Montgomery: Adam Howden.
Burgundy: Christopher Hughes.
Berta/Sorel: Clare Latham.
Charles/Isabel: Natasha Rickman.
Joan: Kate Sawyer.
Thibaut/Talbot: Christopher Tester.
Raymond/Fastolf: Francis Woolf.
Dunois: Christopher York.
Directors: Mark Leipacher, Rachel Valentine Smith.
Lighting: Chris Withers.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Fight director: Kevin McCurdy.