In this blog post, Directors Izzy Collie-Cousins, Phoebe Rowell & Sophie Hill share their thoughts on bringing Shaw's 'Saint Joan' to life (and death) on the ADC stage.
“Miracles are alright, Polly. The only difficulty is that they don’t happen much nowadays.”
Bam. What an excellent, thought-provoking and succinct one-liner from Robert de Baudricourt, otherwise known as a “blazing ass”. Saint Joan is full of moments like this: funny, surprising, resonant with modern day attitudes. It’s a hard play to grapple with. It doesn’t allow you to be passive. However, for the engagement it demands of a cast, of a crew, and yes, of an audience, you are infinitely rewarded.
Famously, Bernard Shaw states in his preface that there are “no villains in the piece”, which has given all the actors the ability to sink their teeth into a variety of complex characters. While it is always important to engage with your characters as complicated human beings with faults and assets like the rest of us, it is essential that this comes across in Saint Joan. If Joan is not both “miraculous and unbearable” as Rebecca Hilliker called her, we have no sympathy with those that try her and certainly none with her compatriots who repeatedly caution and undermine her. Additionally, as many of the actors are playing multiple roles, differentiation has been essential.
The biggest challenge of the process has been contending with Shaw’s stage directions, through which he almost becomes a character himself as he comments on the appearance and actions of his characters with a witty but often cutting sense of humour. Our favourites include:
“[The] steward, a trodden worm, scanty of flesh, scanty of hair, who might be any age from 18 to 55, being the sort of man whom age cannot wither because he has never bloomed.”
“The nobleman is enjoying himself: the chaplain is struggling with suppressed wrath.”
While it is not always practical or possible to follow these to the letter, they certainly give a vibrance to the script and a great deal of amusement in rehearsals.
Our Producers, Designers, Stage Managers and cast have all put so much hard work and time into this production. Building this together has been a joy and a privilege; they are a remarkably talented group of individuals, and without their dedication and drive this would still be “a mere form of words”.
Saint Joan opens at the ADC Theatre on Tuesday 30 April and runs until Saturday 4 May. Book your tickets here!