Emilia Di Luca
What do you have in common with Joan of Arc—the French maid in the 15th century who had visions from God, led the French to reclaim their land from the English and was burned alive at 19 years old?
Probably more thank you think.
Sarah Thorpe, the writer, performer and co-director of Heretic, breaks through the fourth-wall as Joan of Arc to show you just how human she was. Thorpe plays a feisty Joan who is eager tell her story to an audience that could easily dismiss her as “some female saint who wore armour.”
Heretic returns to Toronto in Theatre Passe Muraille’s Backspace since it last premiered this past spring. It returns with a new pair of directors, Thorpe and her co-director Scott Dermody.
Freed from the heavy garbs and ornate furnishings of the 1400s, Thorpe’s contemporary Joan has the freedom to express herself in unconventional ways. One of those ways: drawing on the floor using chalk. Thorpe explains her battle plans as she scribbles and doodles all over the pitch-black floor.
Despite the minimalist set and black-box theatre, Heretic still makes the quaint theatre a sacred place. Detailed drawings of angels and saints mark the back wall, and flickering candles warm the front of the stage. It feels like the audience sits in the pews of a chapel.
The simple set lets Thorpe shine. She brilliantly slips out of Joan’s skin and into a slew of others—King Charles VII, a few nuns, a solider—the list goes on. Thorpe’s costume and props were minimal, clever and effective, just like her set.
You might ask: how did she play King Charles? Thorpe put on two things: a French accent and a blue paper moustache on a stick (like the one you hold to your face in photo booth at your friend’s wedding).
Thorpe’s talent extends beyond the stage and onto the page. Her exploration of Joan humanizes the saint as the audience feels her fear and fierceness throughout her quest to fulfill God’s word.
Thorpe’s writing shines the brightest at the end with the dramatization of Joan of Arc’s death. In the infamous story, Joan burns at the stake, but Thorpe’s Joan licks her fingers and puts the flame of a candle out saying, “That’s not so scary.” Thorpe makes Joan fearless in the face of death—a powerful ending.
Heretic runs until Nov. 30 at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Backspace. For tickets and more information, visit http://soupcantheatre.com/shows/heretic-2/about/