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Saint Joan


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#1 Theatresquirrel

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 04:37 PM

'Imagine a world where any man thinks he could be Mohammed...'

So says Patterson Joseph's Cauchon towards the end of Act 1 and at that moment I realised why Hytner, Elliott & Co. have decided to stage this old chestnut.

I'm no big George Bernard Shaw fan, and I'm afraid this play doesn't remotely win me over (could anyone write about something so mystical so matter-of-factly?). But the inquiry above, and the second act which protractedly portrays the stink of religion, warrant its revival today.

That, and a staging which invests more spirit in it than Shaw himself remotely musters.

I felt it went on forever and then I read that Marianne Elliott has already cut an hour of the original play, which I could frankly get down on my knees and kiss her feet for. Throughout this production I think she and her team do tremendous work pumping relevance and energy into Shaw's lumbering text. As Travelex, it's pretty superb; I hope new audiences are really hooked by some of the electrifying staging, and drawn back to see more plays thanks to the drama evoked by the stagecraft here. Some of the effects are utterly startling and they'll really stay with me a long time.

And fortunately, Anne-Marie Duff just radiates. You feel, or I feel, like this is a real star of serious theatre being forged here. She's so magnetic. I didn't get with the accent they've given her, it distractingly drew my mind (intentionally or not) to other religious conflicts, but her performance (in a part that I feel Shaw fudged badly, failing to explore the internal essence of) is incredibly winning. How I'd love to see her in some Shakespeare. I imagine we will.

#2 MaxCady

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 04:54 PM

Squirrel, just how long was this play?

#3 Lynette

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 06:01 PM

Sounds good to me. Thanks tsquirrel for that


#4 coated peanuts

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 08:58 PM

Running time was about 3 hours and I didn't look at my watch once during the play, so that can only be a good sign. The staging was very good, including the use of live music, quite beautifully sung at times. I loved the way the battles were shown and even the slighly strange use of chairs during the play.

The Duke of Warwick was brilliantly played and I found myself wishing that his scenes could be triple as long, so I hope those weren't the ones that were shortened.  I had seen the actor before and remembered him as outstanding, it's time I find out who it is. Anne Marie Duffy was an excellent choice for Joan and I'd be very happy to see her in anything else, be it Shakespeare or not.

The ending was a bit drawn out and soppy, but I can live with that. I've booked to see it again later in the run.

#5 richard

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Posted 12 July 2007 - 09:23 PM

What is needed now is a long overdue revival of Jean Anouilh's 'L'Alouette' (The Lark), a far superior play in every way than 'Saint Joan' - intellectually, theatrically and (in Christopher Fry's wonderfully sensitive translation) more emotionally elevated.
Many differences with 'Saint Joan' - The Dauphin is a much more important part in the Anouilh and Cauchon is brillantly created.  The Trial scene (always a high point in Shaw's drama) is even better in the Anouilh.  It would suit Chichester's stage for starters, but would work well in proscenium arch also.  Dorothy Tutin and Donald Pleasance confirmed the promise of their  emerging talent in the British première in 1955.

#6 Backdrifter

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 12:47 PM

I absolutely loved this, and am already planning to see it again. I haven't read the original so can't comment on the text but if it's as Theatresquirrel says then all praise to the company for their work. I found AMD very engaging and, apart from a bit near the end when she suddenly went ultra-impish, was captivated by her performance. After the early preview I saw, the cast took one call then didn't reappear but the applause continued for some time and she briefly ran on stage alone, waved and went off again, looking like a delighted little kid.
Turn up the signal... wipe out the noise

#7 Ian

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 01:50 PM

QUOTE(Backdrifter @ Jul 13 2007, 01:47 PM) View Post
I absolutely loved this, and am already planning to see it again. I haven't read the original so can't comment on the text but if it's as Theatresquirrel says then all praise to the company for their work. I found AMD very engaging and, apart from a bit near the end when she suddenly went ultra-impish, was captivated by her performance. After the early preview I saw, the cast took one call then didn't reappear but the applause continued for some time and she briefly ran on stage alone, waved and went off again, looking like a delighted little kid.


St Joan at the National Theatre has a staggering relevance to modern society, despite being written 80 years ago and concerning events occurring over 500 years ago. There is much use of music and some of the best choreography in London at present. The story is witty, involving and superbly performed by one of the finest ensembles that the National has mustered for years. If you can take listening to dialogue, then hurry along – as part of the £10 Travelex season this is the best value the West End (OK the National is not strictly WE) has to offer.

On Wednesday there were two full calls - and they could have done more, but that is perhaps not surprising at a press night!
The engine roared, the motor hissed,
And who could see that the road would twist

#8 Backdrifter

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 04:19 PM

QUOTE(Ian @ Jul 13 2007, 02:50 PM) View Post
There is much use of music and some of the best choreography in London at present.

I forgot to mention the music - I loved it, especially the opening passage
Turn up the signal... wipe out the noise

#9 Sean

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Posted 13 July 2007 - 09:30 PM

I loved it, especially the superb central performance.  As people have said, very relavant to our own society.

I've written a full review at:

www.seaninthestall.blogspot.com

#10 Daniel

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Posted 14 July 2007 - 05:24 PM

What a production !  Magnifique !!  How wonderful to see something worthwhile at the National again - the choice of plays since Nick Hytner took over has been distinctly iffy ( think Market Boy) & this is JUST the sort of thing they should be doing. The staging was superb, the music beautifully haunting & AMD was excellent in the role - extremely likeable. Her sudden jokey posture on the declaration of her sainthood was a hysterical touch. Fulsome praise to everyone concerned.




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