Earlier than it even opened, this new play by the nonbinary playwright Charlie Josephine had been condemned by some folks (who had neither learn nor seen it) as a trans appropriation of an iconic feminine determine, and her story. But in reality, I, Joan, which reimagines Joan of Arc as a nonbinary individual, is an “expansive, unifying and general joyful piece of labor”, mentioned Nick Curtis within the London Night Normal – “saggy at instances however too delicate for a scorching culture-war take”.
Josephine’s tone is archly anachronistic; the language “trendy and poetically slangy, however with a fifteenth century vibe”. And the author pulls off an “extraordinary balancing act”: this can be a “humorous” play which explores profound problems with identification and perception, with out looking for to “invalidate any previous or future variations of Joan, or sideline ladies in any manner”.
The play is “stirring, questioning and incendiary”, mentioned Donald Hutera in The Instances; and it’s nicely served by a intelligent, nimble and interesting manufacturing, directed by Ilinca Radulian, through which textual content, music, motion and design all work collectively.
The appearing, too, is first-rate. Jolyon Coy is “hilarious” as king-in-waiting Charles, and Adam Gillen excels as a shy underling who turns into Joan’s most loyal follower. However the night is pushed by a “staggering” central efficiency by Isobel Thom, mentioned Anya Ryan in The Guardian – a nonbinary actor making their skilled stage debut.
“No matter your view on the gender debate, the thought of Joan as trans is fertile topic for drama and dialogue,” mentioned Claire Allfree in The Day by day Telegraph. And this manufacturing has a “boisterous, cartoonish pantomime high quality” that principally counters any “suggestion of po-faced preachiness”. The one downside is that Josephine’s play is “desperately skinny”. There are “highly effective and poignant moments”, however for probably the most half the piece “reduces the religious and political nature of Joan’s militaristic fervour to glib, empty proclamations”. For a drama about such a brave determine, I, Joan is “weirdly toothless”.
Shakespeare’s Globe, London SE1. Till 22 October