Sunday, 19 February 2017

La pucelle

"Martyrs, my friend, have to choose between being forgotten, mocked or used. As for being understood - never."  - Albert Camus

And so to the theatre. Continuing (anticipating actually) the Hundred Years War theme of the previous post, I have been to see Shaw's Saint Joan in another of the National Theatre's live broadcasts, this time from the Donmar. I am pleased to report that on this occasion the Nobel Laureate has been well served by director and actors.  Gemma Arterton is superb as the Maid, and the rest of the cast were excellent. Like the recent production of Pygmalion that I saw this is mostly in modern dress with a shortened script that retains the original language. For me this works well here and was unnecessary there. GBS himself wrote "It is difficult, if not impossible, for most people to think otherwise than in the fashion of their own period."; I would assert that one century ago is 'our period' in a way that six centuries ago is not.

The set is a boardroom, although thankfully not one of the many such that I have sat in has ever revolved; a design decision I found less grating than for, example, much of the action in Pygmalion taking part in a fish tank. For me the parallels between then and now - not least those with power conspiring with each other against everyone else - work better because the nobility are dressed like, as well as acting like, bankers of the last thirty years. John de Stogumber's outraged rhetorical question "How can what an Englishman believes be heresy? It is a contradiction in terms." is all the more recognisably relevant if he looks as if he's in UKIP, as is the response from the more cultured and educated Frenchman to whom he is speaking that Stogumber will be forgiven on the basis that the 'thick air' of England breeds 'invincible ignorance'. The chosen setting also made one inevitably think of 'Yes, Minister': self-interest, hypocrisy and circumlocution in beautifully crafted dialogue.

Enigma of the evening: who did steal the bishop's horse?

1 comment:

  1. One of the best bits of theatre I've seen was the English Shakespeare Company's version of Henry V in the mid eighties in a modern dress mode referencing the return of the task force from the Falklands and lots of football chanting ere we go etc, imediately followed by the French court dressed in linen suits, their first line was"thus come the English " it was brilliant!
    Best Iain