Monday, October 31, 2011

Joan of Arc examined through eyes of alleged serial killer in Jehanne of the Witches

By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

Joan of Arc heard the voices of saints urging her to expunge France of its enemies, led her country to several victories - if she hadn't come along we might be calling France "England" right now - during the 100 Years War and was burned at the stake for heresy.

It's a simple story, right? Wrong, according to Jehanne of the Witches, the latest production from the departments of Theatre and Stagecraft & Event Technology at Douglas College.
The play, written by Sally Clark, tells the story of the "Virgin Warrior" through Gilles de Rais, a knight who served alongside Joan whom Clark identifies as Joan's best friend. But in nearly all the accounts of Joan's life, whether through plays, operas or movies, de Rais - who is most famous for being an alleged serial killer of children - is mostly or entirely absent.

"He's been taken off the books," says Thrasso Petras, director. "He's as much as possible been removed from the story because it doesn't sound like the Catholic Church's version of what happened. Editing out her relationship with de Rais takes away the complexity of Joan's story."

Thrasso says Jehanne looks at Joan not as a virgin saint and martyr, but as a real girl in the process of becoming a woman, and one who is struggling with her faith at a time when the pagan world was on the wane and the Christian world on the ascent.

It also portrays de Rais as a man obsessed with Joan.

"The important thing is that it's about this man's obsession and his fantasy about who this woman was to him. He's telling this story through his need for her. It's as much about him, if not more, than about her."

Despite the serious nature of the play, Thrasso describes Jehanne of the Witches as a black comedy.

"It's quite irreverent. It takes jabs at the Church, but at the same time it's a realistic investigation of faith, of where one's allegiance lies, and what causes this desire to seek out that faith or need that faith. So it's taking pokes at the Church, but not at faith."

Jehanne of the Witches runs Nov. 12-19 at the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, Douglas College, 700 Royal Ave., New Westminster. Tickets ($8-$12) available through the Massey Theatre, 604 521 5050.