JOAN written and directed by Sarah Phillips, with Christine Brubaker, Richard Greenblatt, Randi Helmers, John Millard, Karen Randoja and Dragoslav Tanaskovic. February 12-16 at 7:15 pm. Rating: NNNNN
Sarah Phillips has done the girl thing in Toronto theatre. Directing for Red Red Rose Theatre, she's presented a clown-inspired version of Salome and her own adaptation of Antigone.Her writing debut focuses on another heavyweight woman, Joan of Arc. Phillips's Joan bears some resemblance to Shaw's and Anouilh's, but don't look for a flesh-and-blood performer. The saviour of France is played by a puppet.
"Joan's biggest draw for me was that she's so well known; she's part of the grade 4 curriculum. But I've never had a sense of who the real person was or how she could have gone through her experience."
Joan is one of Rhubarb!'s short diversionary shows -- the equivalent of Fringe bring-your-own-venues -- and takes place in the park next to Buddies, its audience the people on line to buy tickets. Expect songs, hand and shadow puppets and a ringmaster named Wolfe.
"Wolfe begins as the one in control, but he loses his objectivity and becomes more affected by Joan. And the audience should lose its distance from the characters, too, since there's no real division in the park, no fourth wall, between audience and stage."
The show will likely be repeated during the course of the evening (hope the weather's warmer than it has been), and Phillips expects it will have more lives after its Rhubarb! run.
She's especially drawn to a dream format for presenting both characters and narrative. In fact, Phillips notes that as she researched the era, ideas about the figures' dreams came to her before their waking lives.
"The one thing that stays with me is the almost unrelenting nightmare of the characters' daily existence in that period. It wasn't all blood and guts, but it was pretty raw."