This production has been already hailed as the most controversial show staged at The Globe in 2022. It’s the first large-scale UK theatre production to be written by a non-binary playwright, have a non-binary lead, and deal conceptually with the idea of being non-binary. If you ask me (note: I’m an easy sell for topics like these), I would give this show good credit even without seeing the play – just for breaking another “wall” and bringing the representation into a venue as famous as The Globe. But I was lucky enough to see the cast of “I, Joan” during their opening night, and thank Goddess (as Joan states, God is a “She”) they did not disappoint!
If you enjoyed seeing the West End shows embracing gender identity exploration before, this production will make violins and drums play in your heart. “I, Joan” is a celebration of diversity, pride, love, and empowerment, in all the best ways. It does it without being too serious or draggy. Fun, snappy dialogues bring tons of humour to the play, while certain deeper moments are staged in a form of a dialogue between Joan and their friend, Thomas, and feel just like a heart-to-heart in one’s bedroom, at the end of the day (a proper kiki, as some would say).
The production tells Joan D’Arc’s story anew. We follow the french army as they strive to win the war and push the English out of France. Joan, as an unexpected leader – “Chosen by God” – leads the army to victory. The historical part of the play, however, seems like only half of the show, as it creates full synergy with the mental journey Joan makes, through their identity and life.
Isobel Thom (Joan) are such a firecracker! From the moment they appear on the stage, they have this powerful presence that grabs the eye and doesn’t let go. They reminded me of a Freddie Mercury at certain moments – with their total ownership of the stage and the audience’s hearts and minds. Can’t believe that this is their professional debut – bravo!
Jolyon Coy as King Charles was my highlight of the play. He extracted all the juices from the baddie character – the self-love, conceit, and that comedic factor that’s above the bar ridiculous. The Globe doesn’t often see an actor almost naked, in his white briefs, rolling around the stage and pouting like a baby. I have to say, such absurd moments from “I, Joan” will stay in my memories forever! My favourite point of time happened at the beginning of the second act when the king was present on the stage mostly just to share his own “sexiness” with the subjects. I was bursting with laughter, and you have to know, it doesn’t happen to me so often (I try to keep my face on while watching a show). Am-az-ing.
Movement design and choreography are almost turned into another role in the play. The dance is so important here – it embodies all kinds of emotions – from an indignant crowd of priests that shake uncontrollably, through a dance battle that illustrates a historical clash between the French and the English, to showcasing unity and happiness. Accompanied by a strong rhythm of drums, the dance not just animated the actors on the stage – it moved the audience (and definitely myself) – there was clapping, stomping, and dancing as the play progressed. I don’t think I’ve seen such participation in other shows in London, or anywhere! It just felt natural and bonded the cast and the audience, especially in such an open space as the Globe.
The playfulness of the show is also amplified by the stage design, resembling a giant slide or a skatepark ramp – characters slide down from it to enter the stage, causing a wave of applause every time.
The messaging of the show, including Joan’s realisation of their identity and the fight to be seen as non-binary, and the fight for freedom to be yourself, is sadly, still so relatable these days. I could see how the audience reacted to those more serious moments in the play – there were nodding heads, snapping fingers, and a burst of applause once the “Call me they, not she” was stated.
I left the Wooden O hyped with energy. It was late, and there was some rain in the air causing me to shiver, but I didn’t mind. I just charged my mental battery so much, all thanks to “I, Joan”. This show is a ball of fire that will aim right for your heart and keep you hyped for the whole evening. This is theatre history in the making and I’m here for more of it!
“I, Joan” at The Globe Theatre
17 Sept – 22 Oct 2022
Written by Charlie Josephine
Directed by Ilinca Radulian