‘Trans people are sacred. We are divine.’ The first line of I, Joan at the Globe establishes the tone of the play as a public rally for non-binary folk. The writer, Charlie Josephine, seems wary of bringing divinity into the story too much, and he gives Joan a get-out clause to appease the agnostics.
‘Setting aside religiosity we’ll settle for more of a street god, a god for the queers and drunks… a god for the godless.’ What can ‘a god for the godless’ mean? No idea. Joan throws in a few more hipster platitudes about ‘elevating our humanity, finding the unity hidden inside community, remembering our collective connectivity fuels courageous creativity [sic]’. At press night these rhapsodic banalities were cheered so aggressively that one feared the consequences of not joining in, or of not honking loudly enough.
Act One traces Joan’s military successes as she leads the Dauphin’s army to Reims (or ‘rants’ as the actors pronounce it). In the second half, her battlefield skills desert her and she’s accused of witchcraft by 42 black-clad judges.
Historically the piece is accurate but the costumes and the moral tone are snugly rooted in today’s culture rather than in Joan’s. The medieval court has been designed like a skate park with a rear wall arranged as a wooden chute which the actors climb up and whoosh down comically. It’s funny the first six or seven times. Then it gets tiresome.
Joan’s rhetoric becomes a little grating as well. She shrieks that she’s ‘full of God’ rather too often, and she has a habit of complaining that the dictionary lacks the words to express her complex, subversive and multi-layered personality. But that’s true of us all.