The Voices of Joan of Ark is a great little number, billed as “an intimate performance told through voice and song” it certainly delivers. It’s the kind of raw, slightly unpolished work that within its limitations successfully creates an experience that is still memorable days later…
It’s a historical re-telling of one of history’s most iconic female figures, Joan of Arc who at the of 17 led France into victorious combat, then by 19 had been condemned a heretic, burnt at the stake. The performance focuses on her trial by the Catholic Church, the verse is beautiful and has a sense of choreographic persuasion that sets a constant rhythm, carried through, thankfully unbroken until it reaches the crescendo. All time, the performance is both underpinned and augmented by violin and song- it’s a stirring combination that resonates, though at time perhaps teetered too close to being a little too cinematic for such an intimate work.
In the lead role, Janie Gibson gives an impress performance, near channelling but still able to create a modern sense of reverence to this story, still there is room to go deeper into the dense text. Daniel Han, delivers his role in a stoic manner that counteracts, between the two there are some beautiful moments of choreography. Musically, the work of Xani Kolac, matches the narrative perfectly, creating a further sense of immersion into this supposed reality.
Presented within a small studio space at Northcote Town Hall, the performance here is set in the round, audiences flanking either side of the long narrow space. Performance arranged in this style can often present challenges both for the performers and audience, but here it’s utilised to full advantage, as audience become the jury to this trial, and performers take time to connect with every person in the room. The resulting effect is one that pulls you deeper in this work. Lighting adds a further dynamism to this already bursting performance, scenes where the space is bathed in light juxtaposed against others that are lit by candles, then only to plunged into almost complete darkness.
This is a dark piece, brooding and intense, it has at the core a simple, yet somehow grand vision, that is as well thought out as it is realised, the bones of great show are definitely here, both Janie Gibson and Daniel Han should relax a little and fully take to their characters, fleshing them out and working on developing a greater on stage co-dynamic. In turn, other elements of the performance could do with further investigation and development, some images created bordered on the cliché and the question remains as with many other performances, is nudity truly needed here, does it propel the narrative creating deeper reverence, or does it detract from a performance that is otherwise solid, worthy and full of merit?
The Voices of Joan of Arc is currently playing until Saturday May 14th at Northcote Town Hall as part of this years Next Wave Festival, get out there and amongst it. Tickets for this show can be purchased here