Joan of Arc, New Diorama, review: Pathos and politics in a gripping tale

A starkly stripped-back, modern-dress production of the 1801 play

The enterprising Faction company are committed to staging the complete Schiller canon. They now turn their attention to his take on Joan of Arc in this compelling, starkly stripped-back, modern-dress production of the 1801 play, adapted by Mark Leipacher who co-directs with Rachel Valentine Smith. Schiller’s approach to the material is startlingly different from that of rival artists. Joan is not burnt at the stake but escapes, Samson-like, from prison, to die a heroic death on the battlefield, having painfully atoned for the pivotal shame of lapsing from her divine mission when she falls in love at first sight with an enemy English soldier.

Operatic sentimentalisation? Not as conveyed in Faction’s anti-romantic account. Kate Sawyer’s Joan is both an eerie symbol of implacabilityand a graphic illustration of the psychological strain of having to suppress the human for the heavenly. There’s a terrible pathos in the scene where remorse for her moment of weakness renders her dumb when she is publicly accused of devilry. Finding the mordant humour in the ego-driven power politics and a fresh visual shorthand, the production never relaxes its grip.

To 28 February (020 733 9034)

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