"Drag show meets queer biopic"
by Justin Murray for remotegoat on 18/04/17

Milk Presents’ new piece Joan, part drag-show cabaret, part-storytelling piece narrating the short but fascinating life of Joan of Arc, is a stunning testament to the power of solo performance, queer theatre, and cross-disciplinary storytelling.

Choosing drag king Lucy Jane Parkinson as the performer to tell this story is a superb coup of casting on the part of director Lucy J Skillbeck. It really brings home the fish-out-of-water, ‘queer’ element of the Joan of Arc story: a hero out of place, standing out from her backdrop, in any situation. In presenting this character Parkinson finds an intense vulnerability in almost every line as Joan, coupled with a hilarious cabaret-style, blink-and-you’ll-forget-she’s-female performance of the male figures she encounters.

it starts from a very grounded place that relates to the audience and only brings in the story of a woman 600 years dead once this connection is established. Some elements of the piece are drawn near directly from the world of the drag show, all of which helped move the story forward in unexpected and exciting ways. Better yet, the relationship works in both directions - Joan’s story and her dilemma help us get under the skin of the contradictions that the drag performer’s mask presents to us.

Audience participation likewise straddles story and cabaret used to get you onside with things - getting you involved in battle, before pulling you up and making you think twice the next. Joan gets away with a high level of audience participation, while simultaneously taking great care of each one of them.

Parkinson has excellent control of rhythm - the show is slow at times but incredibly involving. It held its audience - an audience of all adult ages - throughout.

The only slightly sour note is the inclusion of a (to my limited knowledge ahistorical - somebody please correct me if I'm wrong?) detail that Joan of Arc was in part motivated to take up arms after the violation of her mother by British soldiers, which seems a little easy for a show that is elsewhere so smart.

When Parkinson’s various metamorphoses through different performances of masculinity give way in their turn to femininity, the transformation is breathtaking.

The intimacy of Skillbeck’s in-the-round staging gives everyone a different perspective on this story, while lighting and sound design complement the action. By the end, Joan’s inevitable death has become simultaneously a terrible and glorious thing - the only thing that can happen.

Joan is a near-perfect show which uses a rich tapestry of voices to tell a great story while holding up a mirror to the masculinity in the room. It made me laugh, made me cry, and could in a pinch serve as a primer for introducing you to gender theory and queer theory. Do not miss this.

Event venues and times
finished Oval House Theatre | 52-54 Kennington Oval, London, SE11 5SW

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