EGTG Lark Joan of Arc Anouillh

The Lark

The Lark by Jean Anouilh, contemporary translation by Gill Taylor

Performances 4th – 8th June, 7:30pm Bellfield, Portobello
Tickets £12 advance, £15 on the door theegtg.com/tickets/

Joan of Arc. Saint, saviour or someone who heard voices? 

Against the backdrop of one of the world’s longest wars, a 17 year old peasant girl led an army of men into battle and carved a victory that defined France. She claimed God told her to do it; the church says she’s a witch and should be burnt alive.

Jean Anouilh’s classic play tells the tale of how Joan convinced the church, the state – and her dad – to let her tackle an apparently impossible feat. And then plays witness at her trial: a nineteen year old uneducated woman held to account for her successes by the world’s most educated men.

Anouilh published the script in 1953, having lived through the occupation of France by the German army during the Second World War. His observations about how the French sense of identity was squeezed provide a poignant context to this story. But he makes “no attempt to explain the mystery of Joan”. That’s up to the audience.

EGTG is staging the Scottish premiere of a new script translation. Gill Taylor translated Anouilh’s French script for performance by her own theatre group in East London ten years ago – wishing to find words that bring to life the spirit, vitality and fire of Joan in a way that’s meaningful for modern day audiences.

Building on Taylor’s translation, director Claire Wood, musical director Neil Colquhoun and choir mistress Elizabeth McColl are adding a band and a choir into the mix to convey the passion and panache of this fifteenth century revolutionary. With a playlist including Arcade Fire, Mark Ronson, Hozier and Radiohead, this is a story that will feel bang up to date.

Director Claire Wood says:

“Although Joan lived and died nearly 600 years ago, her story feels incredibly current. A lone teenage girl taking on the world’s leaders to try and make her world a better place? I hope Greta Thunberg’s story has a better ending. In the end, Joan’s patriarchy could find so little to pin on her that they prosecuted her for wearing trousers. As the debate continues to rage about how women should and shouldn’t behave, this script asks a bunch of questions about how far we should go for the things we believe in.”

The question at the heart of the play – was it really God or “just” Joan’s incredible ambition? – is given an added piquancy by this production’s venue: a church. Bellfield is now a community centre but the Celebration Hall retains the architectural features – including the organ and a dramatic pulpit – of a place of worship. EGTG is delighted to have the chance to stage the first piece of theatre in the former Portobello Old Parish Church.

The cast ranges in age from 8 to 81, but all are excited about resurrecting this piece of history with all its contemporary resonances. Was Joan hearing voices, inspired by God, trying to save France, was she one of the world’s first feminists or did she just see an opportunity to escape from a tiny sleepy village and a life spent spinning clothes and watching sheep?

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