A Suitable Saint for 2016?

I've never seen a stage production of Shaw's St. Joan before, I did a dramatised reading of it when I was 19 at about 2 o'clock in the morning as part of a sponsored play reading... and I have seen Otto Preminger/Graham Greene's somewhat bloodless film many years ago (probably on a rainy Saturday afternoon when there was no decent sport on Grandstand and it was showing on BBC2)... As such I was not awake to the powerful resonances that this play has for the world in which we now live... But the production in Belfast's Lyric which I saw last night on it's first night brings them alive...
The director Jimmy Fay and adaptor Philip O'Sullivan have radically cut the play from a dramatis personnae of around 22 to one that could be handled by a cast of 7... However, they largely kept the structure and language of Shaw's play, choosing not to do it as an ensemble/agitprop piece a la the recent National Production, but they did loose the epilogue with its dream sequence (which the film confusinging turns into a prologue)... preferring to end with Warwick's line in the previous scene, which I personally think was a good call (though I won't spoil it for those who don't know the play)... The last scene they do perform is problematic enough... and sadly I don't think they entirely cracked it, which made for a weak end to a good production... However, I am not entirely sure how you could possibly make the epilogue work for a modern theatre audience... Did anyone reading this see the National Production? Review's seem to suggest they took the scissors to it too... How did it work?
There are points in the play where Shaw is at his didactic best/worst depending on how you look at it... and he is totally anachronistic (probably knowingly and unashamedly so) at times... Especially when it comes to the Protestant/Catholic debate, which is perhaps exacerbated by the excising in this script of the references to Hus and Wycliffe that were in the original... but that is me as a church history buff being pedantic... to most audience members it won't make a difference... And should in no way be taken as me being negative about what was a really worthwhile production. Some of the performances were superb (especially Lisa Dwyer Hogg as Joan and Tony Flynn as Warwick... and the best performance out of Alan McKee that I've yet seen), although some of the diction was poor. The award winning design and staging, set in an office, was appropriately jarring (I'll come back to that), though as often is the caase it didn't fully follow through on the iconic promotional designs. It was a shame it was only 3/4 full last night, and hope it gets the audiences it deserves for the rest of the run...
But let me come back to the play itself, which as I said, I have never properly seen before, and realised the contemporary resonances on my previous reading... It hadn't connected with me that it was written, not only in the light of Joan's 1920 elevation to sainthood, but the First World War, and the events of the 1916 Easter Rising, with Pearse's commitment to blood sacrifice and warrior-spirituality, and all that flowed from it... And so at the heart of this decade of centenaries it raises important questions about nationalism and imperialism, feminism (even though Shaw wouldn't have recognised the term) and male-chauvenism, individualistic protestantism and institutional catholicism, as well as the whole issue of the use of violence in pursuit of a supposedly righteous cause, both on a military level and a judicial one... The dynamic between church and state is perhaps more pertinent than when Shaw wrote this... And the reflections on the extremes of Islam, or as Shaw refers to it as Mahommedenism are chillingly prophetic... Is Joan, driven by her personal conviction to wage ruthless war (unmeliorated by the laws of chivalry) really the tragic heroine here? Or was she a 15th century Samantha Lewthwaite? Is she a suitable saint for 2016? 
Shaw's scepticism about faith is dwarfed by his understandable cynicsm about the church and institutional religion... An it is hard to gainsay when you look at the history of Christendom in its many institutional forms, from way before Joan, cosying up to the Empire under Constantine, calling for crusades, condemning Joan and then canonising her, blessing "big battalions" and small on both sides in mutiple wars, endorsing many despots as it suited them, creating the Inquisition, piggybacking on colonialism, right down to today and some of the dubious political alliances made the world over, not least the recent "evangelical" leaders' lauding "the Donald." However, Christendom is dead (or at best on life support) and the setting of this production, in an office with soaring glass windows and sharp suits, centuries away from the historic gothic castles, cathedrals and suits of armour we might expect... Because today the power lies not with church or state but in multi-national companies... That was why one of the key targets of Al-Qaeda 15 years ago today was the World Trade Centre... As potent a target as Orleans was for Joan nearly 6 centuries ago... I doubt that those who committed that atrocity will be lauded by many in the west in centuries to come in the way that Joan now is... She may have sought to avoid her own martyrdom, but she led many to their deaths, and advocated a ruthlessness in the pursuit of her "righteous" cause, in much the same way that those behind militant Islam (or the western response to such) do today. 
I haven't yet seen or heard any professional reviews of this, but this decidedly unprofessional reviewer thinks you should go see it if you have the chance... And  see if you think she is a suitable saint for 2016...


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