I, Joan: a ‘stirring, questioning and incendiary’ play (2024)

I, Joan: a ‘stirring, questioning and incendiary’ play (1)

Isobel Thom is ‘staggering’ as a nonbinary Joan of Arc

(Image credit: Helen Murray)

By The Week Staff

last updated

Before it even opened, this new play by the nonbinary playwright Charlie Josephine had been condemned by some people (who had neither read nor seen it) as a trans appropriation of an iconic female figure, and her story. Yet in fact, I, Joan, which reimagines Joan of Arc as a nonbinary person, is an “expansive, unifying and overall joyful piece of work”, said Nick Curtis in the London Evening Standard – “baggy at times but too subtle for a hot culture-war take”.

Josephine’s tone is archly anachronistic; the language “modern and poetically slangy, but with a 15th century vibe”. And the writer pulls off an “extraordinary balancing act”: this is a “funny” play which explores profound issues of identity and belief, without seeking to “invalidate any past or future versions of Joan, or sideline women in any way”.

The play is “stirring, questioning and incendiary”, said Donald Hutera in The Times; and it is well served by a clever, nimble and engaging production, directed by Ilinca Radulian, in which text, music, movement and design all work together.

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The acting, too, is first-rate. Jolyon Coy is “hilarious” as king-in-waiting Charles, and Adam Gillen excels as a shy underling who becomes Joan’s most loyal follower. But the evening is driven by a “staggering” central performance by Isobel Thom, said Anya Ryan in The Guardian – a nonbinary actor making their professional stage debut.

“Whatever your view on the gender debate, the idea of Joan as trans is fertile subject for drama and discussion,” said Claire Allfree in The Daily Telegraph. And this production has a “boisterous, cartoonish pantomime quality” that mostly counters any “suggestion of po-faced preachiness”. The only problem is that Josephine’s play is “desperately thin”. There are “powerful and poignant moments”, but for the most part the piece “reduces the spiritual and political nature of Joan’s militaristic fervour to glib, empty proclamations”. For a drama about such a courageous figure, I, Joan is “weirdly toothless”.

Shakespeare’s Globe, London SE1. Until 22 October

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I, Joan: a ‘stirring, questioning and incendiary’ play (2024)
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