Review of Saint Joan on Spalding screen

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National Theatre Live brought Saint Joan to the screen at South Holland Centre in Spalding.

How did a French medieval peasant girl convince the church and aristocracy that she had been chosen by God to lead an army to liberate her homeland from the English?

The National Theatre’s Saint Joan, beamed to the screen at South Holland Centre in Spalding last Thursday, depicted Joan’s absolute conviction in her faith and the visions she had, and the power that gave her in bringing the wealthy and powerful to her side.

In a superb performance by Gemma Arterton as Joan of Ark, Joan makes an unlikely figure as she makes impassioned speeches in a contemporary ‘boardroom’, dressed in period costume.

That setting, complete with mobile phones, laptops and news flashes, only serves to reinforce the difference between the peasant girl and the men who hold all the power.

Nevertheless, Joan receives their backing and succeeds in leading an army to liberate her homeland, only to be betrayed by the men who supported her in the first place and, as we know, is burned at the stake for heresy.

The production was superbly acted in the intimate setting of the Donmar Theatre, the stage slowly revolving throughout the show so that the audience could see all the action and had a notion of a world turning. For cinema viewers, the view was occasionally one from above, almost making us the all-powerful, able to see the machinations of the men into whose world Joan exploded.

It was a thought-provoking play, about the nature of personal faith and where that fits in with religion as represented by the church and its appointed officials; and the play clearly drew parallels with contemporary women working in high-powered jobs in a predominantly male world- and how some men are threatened by that.

Joan as a militant, feminist figure was wonderful and engaging, and incredibly moving when betrayed by those who could and should have saved her.