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Playing saints is a tricky business. As far back as the medieval mystery plays, the argumentative Mr and Mrs Noah walked away with the gags (and, we imagine, the applause). The devil always gets the best tunes and baddies are much more fun to play. On-stage goodness tends to be sweet but tiresome, and if you don't believe me, think Bernadette.

There are, of course, exceptions, as Bernard Shaw discovered when writing St Joan. The Maid of Orleans didn't exactly simper and suffer in silence. London hasn't seen a production in years, but Imogen Stubbs (right) is about to rectify that.

Leading Australian director, Gale Edwards, explains: 'It's a fabulously modern play about an individual having the courage to stand up to the system. It's also about women fighting in a male world, but the universal message is paramount. Of course, its resonances are clear and strong. Look at the trouble surrounding the ordination of women. It's also a fiendishly difficult play for a director, but I'm always stimulated by a challenge.

With a highly successful tour behind it, there has also been the luxury of new rehearsals. 'That can be a real drudge, especially if the actors resent it. We've spent three days in a very hot rehearsal room literally sweating it out, but they have been wonderful. There's an enormous vitality. They're a collective group of storytellers with passion, clarity and enthusiasm.'

'St Joan' opens tomorrow at the Strand Theatre (071-930 8800)

(Photograph omitted)

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