Tag: Emma Valente

THE RABBLE Presents JOAN

Magnificent

By Myron My

It was only a matter of time before experimental feminist theatre company THE RABBLE decided to take on the life of Joan of Arc, the woman who helped France win the war over Orléans and was later burnt at the stake for heresy and cross-dressing. Twenty-five years after her death however, she was declared innocent of her crimes by the courts and was canonised in 1920. Her struggle and persecution is something that still resonates with us today, and with a fierce and poignant feminist perspective on her story, co-creators Kate Davis and Emma Valente bring her plight into a contemporary spotlight.

Joan.jpg

The show begins with a projection of an eye onto a scrim at the front of the stage. While it originally challenges the audience, there is a vulnerability and apprehension to the blinking eye that lingers in the room. The sound of burning logs and crackling wood as it continues to stare into the audience further builds on the unease and hints at what is to come. While we may know the story of Joan of Arc, there are still plenty of surprising and gripping moments to unfold in this production.

Joan‘s non-linear narrative structure explores significant moments in  life including her visions of angels and saints, the examination she underwent to ensure her virginity was intact, and her execution by fire – spectacularly and awfully brought to life on stage. These vignettes are used as a way of exploring not only Joan’s power and persecution, but also that of all women. The focus is not war or history but the person – the woman – and THE RABBLE construct a strong and commanding voice and presence for their protagonist through the evocative performances from its highly talented and dedicated cast.

The four Joans (Luisa Hastings Edge, Emily Milledge, Dana Miltins, and Nikki Shiels) initially appear behind the scrim of Davis’ set, with flashes of light illuminating them or capturing them briefly before the stage is enveloped by darkness once more. The music and Valente’s lighting create a haunting rhythm which, when paired with her adept direction of the cast with their ritualistic prayer-like movements, fills the room with a supreme intensity, emphasising the devout faith held by Joan.

The projections designed by Martyn Coutts are effectively used (particularly during the character’s aforementioned visions and examination), which allows for various complex feelings and thoughts to be cleverly depicted by the various Joans, complemented by the flawless lighting and sound effects.

While there are no authentic representations of what Joan looked like, in casting four women to play her, Joan allow her to embody womankind. While the only documents that exist of her speaking are those from her trial, this superb production expresses powerful words, emotions and ideas from and to her, and by extension, offers a voice to women across time.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda 
Season: Until 30 April | Wed – Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5pm 
Tickets: $38 Full | $30 Conc 
Bookings: Theatreworks

Image by David Paterson

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REVIEW: Evelyn Krape in MORE FEMALE PARTS

Highly anticipated

By Caitlin McGrane

As a loud, outspoken feminist I was terribly excited about More Female Parts. I’d greedily devoured the press notes about the show, playwright Sara Hardy’s creation specifically for Evelyn Krape based on Krape’s 1982 show Female Parts. The show delivered an interesting and unique one-woman show exploring femininity and aging. The show consists of three monologues: ‘Can’t Sleep, Can’t Sleep’ was a clever depiction of life for women after 60 when nothing seems to be going right; ‘Penthouse Woman 2044’ portrayed a woman living a privileged and tragic life in the near future (interestingly in 2044 I will be Krape’s current age); and ‘Hip Op’, a witty feminist fairytale about Emily, a smart little girl who grows into a woman facing the glass ceiling.

More Female Parts

Each monologue was performed with charisma and gusto by Krape, clearly having an absolute ball on stage. She is a fantastically physical, exuberant and witty performer, and the audience seemed captivated throughout her performance, particularly during the third act when Emily encountered difficulties in hip and career. It was unfortunate then that the show didn’t grab me in an emotional way. Despite Krape’s brilliant physicality and clear passion, the script occasionally felt a touch stale and clichéd. I would have liked to see more heart in the characters and less ‘performance’ from Krape to leave the audience with a message. It is certainly important to acknowledge the seriously problematic dearth of roles for women over 40, so it is brilliant to see older women on stage and screen; however, I would have liked more from More Female Parts, particularly in addressing some of the issues briefly alluded to such as domestic violence and the male gaze.

Hardy is clearly a talented playwright, and Lois Ellis a talented director, however, I think that this production would have been more affective with fewer metaphorical nods and winks to the audience. I don’t think society has embraced feminism enough for it to cope with a feminist fairytale, let alone an ironic feminist fairytale.

That said, it is not entirely without merit. The production values were excellent, Rainbow Sweeney (set and costume design) and Emma Valente’s (lighting design) work was effective and expertly put together; the lighting at times gave Krape an ethereal glow. Production and stage manager Meg Richardson and producer Debby Maziarz have helped lead this small, all-female team towards a rare and often charming production. Special mention must also go to the only three men involved in the production, the voice overs: Tom Carmody, Ross Campbell and Peter Crouchman; they couldn’t have done it without you boys.

More Female Parts is now showing at the Arts Centre until 4 July. For tickets go to: http://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/theatre-drama/more-female-parts