All the scared, brave, brash humility & humanity of the remarkable Joan of Arc in Heretic

Sarah Thorpe in Heretic - photo by Laura Dittman
Sarah Thorpe in Heretic – photo by Laura Dittman

Soup Can Theatre opened Sarah Thorpe’s Heretic at Theatre Passe Murraille (TPM) Backspace this week, this production co-directed by Thorpe and Scott Dermody.

Entering the TPM Backspace is like stepping into church and back in time. Early sacred music fills the space, with haunting Latin a cappella harmonies echoing throughout. On the back wall are Joan’s three saints, her three heavenly voices in chalk board stained glass triptych: St. Catherine, St. Michael and St. Margaret. Groupings of white candles mark the corners of the apron, and a wooden lectern sits centre stage.

Sarah Thorpe in Heretic - photo by Laura Dittman
Sarah Thorpe in Heretic – photo by Laura Dittman

Inspired by a monologue from Shaw’s St. Joan, Thorpe plays multiple characters as she takes us on Joan’s journey, told from her point of view, in this modern-day retelling; from a 13-year-old farm girl who hears voices of three saints, to the young cross-dressing woman fighting to drive out the English and crown the Dauphin, to the 19-year-old put to death for heresy and witchcraft. Emboldened by her voices, with a great reverence for God and the Church, and not taking no for an answer from her parents, the military and noble powers that be, the inexperienced girl that everyone thought was crazy became the inspiration that gave the French the upper hand over the English in a country that had known war for decades. Using the black floor as a chalk board, Joan draws out the history, the places, the plan – always trusting her voices even through her own terror at the battle to come. She became the poster child for the uprising of an underdog nation, only to be put down when the powers that be were done with her and her presence had become a liability to them.

Sarah Thorpe in Heretic - photo by Laura Dittman
Sarah Thorpe in Heretic – photo by Laura Dittman

Thorpe does a lovely job with the many facets of Joan, an earnest, driven young woman who dares to put on men’s clothes and throw herself into the fray – always with Joan’s humanity at the core of her performance. Some great moments of comic relief: Robert de Baudricourt, the gruff and macho garrison commander at Vaucouleurs; the randy Dauphin who became King Charles VII and his party girl mistress Agnes Sorel. And a surprisingly poignant monologue from Geoffroy Thérage, the executioner who lit the fire. The girl, the warrior, the symbol, the martyr.

The world according to Joan. All the scared, brave, brash humility and humanity of the remarkable young woman in Heretic.

Heretic continues at the TPM Backspace until Nov 22; it’s an intimate space, so advance booking is a good idea – you can purchase tix online.

And you can keep up with Soup Can Theatre on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And consider supporting the company via their online silent auction fundraiser.

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Raw, real, funny & socially astute – Soup Can Theatre/safeword/Aim for the Tangent Theatre Co-pro Circle Jerk

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Playwright/director Brandon Crone (Maypole Rose – safeword)

Was back out to the Spadina/Queen West neighourhood last night to see the Soup Can Theatre, safeword and Aim for the Tangent Theatre co-production Circle Jerk at lemonTree studio (196 Spadina Ave., just north of Queen St. West).

Featuring four short, new plays, the production provided some interesting instructions to playwrights: they were to use selected lines of dialogue – submitted by the public (almost 300 submissions) – as the opening and closing lines of their plays (with the closing line of one play also serving as the opening line of the next play). The four selected lines were:

“Subtlety is not your specialty.”
“What’s Bulgarian for slut?”
“I think it’s time we talked about your filthy rituals.”
“I fucking hate potatoes.”

Throw in the tagline: Sex. Death. Bananas. and, along with the cyclical structure – a round robin of short plays that literally play off of each other, one tagging another – and there’s the title of the production.

Dust Peddling: Part II (Soup Can Theatre), by Scott Dermody and directed by Joanne Williams. Have you ever had an orgasm? A bed. A man. A woman. Erotic and poetic, physical theatre meets verse and prose in this beautifully edgy and lyrical hybrid piece, where the words are dialogue, foreplay and more. Lovely, candid work from actors Dermody and Lisa Hamalainen.

Sex and This (Aim for the Tangent Theatre), by Wesley J. Colford and directed by Jakob Ehman. What the actual fuck?! Two energetic young urban women getting ready for a themed costume party at a friend’s house are interrupted by some dire news. Facebook and text-reliant Millennials deal with communicating loss. Darkly funny, poignant and truthful performances from Tiffany Deobald and Carys Lewis.

Maypole Rose (safeword), written and directed by Brandon Crone. Two fags, a potent fatty and a bag of junk food. A young married, health-conscious gay couple indulge in stoned monkey lovin’ and junk food consumption. A frank fly-on-the-wall look at a relationship – workaday inanity, bedroom rituals, gender roles, secrets and all. Sexy, raw, tender and funny, with fabulous and honest performances from Alexander Plouffe and G. Kyle Shields.

The Session (Soup Can Theatre), written and directed by Justin Haigh. When under extreme pressure, everyone has his/her breaking point. A workplace counselling session goes to some very dark places as the plant therapist (Matt Pilipiak) and nuclear safety expert (Allan Michael Brunet) work through their introductory meeting. Brunet and Pilipiak do a remarkable job with the back and forth of power/control and vulnerability/fragility, as well as the dramatic tension and dark humour of the piece.

Circle Jerk also features live music inspired by the four lines of dialogue: Subtlety is not Your Specialty by Marla Kishimoto, What’s Bulgarian for Slut by Soup Can Theatre’s Music Director, Pratik Gandhi, I Think it’s Time We Talked About Your Filthy Rituals by Peter Cavell, and I Fucking Hate Potatoes by Patricia Stevens. Directed by Gandhi, the five-piece mini-orchestra includes an upright bass, cello, clarinet, flute and keyboard. The pool of musicians includes Katie Saunoris, Subrina Sookram, Ainsley Lawson, Rachel Gauntlett, Cory Latkovich, Matteo Ferrero-Wong, Brandon Sked and Susan Kim. Lighting on intense, whimsical and cultural flavour – from a piece featuring a hilariously bad (on purpose), yet passionate, clarinet solo to a jolly Irish-inspired tune that turns into a meltdown – the music mirrored and enhanced the theatrical content perfectly.

Sometimes a banana isn’t just a banana. Circle Jerk is a raw, real, darkly funny and socially astute set of short new plays, combining a trio of fine local indie theatre companies with crowd-sourced creativity and multidisciplinary talent. So get yourself out to lemonTree studio and go see this.

Circle Jerk continues its run at lemonTree studio tonight (Nov 15) and tomorrow (Nov 16), and this coming week from Nov 21 – 23; all performances at 8 p.m.