A new Globe Theater production looking at the life of Joan of Arc will see the legendary French heroine transformed into a non-binary character.
The historical figure is known for fearlessly leading the French into battle against English soldiers during the Hundred Years War.
London theater bosses say the play I Joan, which chronicles the life of France’s patron saint, will “offer the opportunity for a different perspective” when it arrives later this month.
The lead role will be played by Isobel Thom, who also uses the pronouns “they/them”.
“For centuries, Joan has been a cultural icon, featured in countless plays, books, movies, and more,” said Michelle Terry, artistic director of The Globe.
“History has provided countless wonderful examples of Joan portrayed as a woman. This production simply offers the possibility of another point of view.
“That’s the role of theatre: to simply ask the question ‘imagine if?’
However, people took to social media to express their anger at the move.
Sophie Walker tweeted: “When I was a little girl, Joan of Arc presented exciting possibilities of what a young girl could do against vast ranks of men. Rewriting her as unfeminine and presenting it as progress is a huge disappointment.”
Journalist Alison Pearson wrote: “When I was a child I had a book of inspirational women throughout history. Joan of Arc was one. This book and these amazing women meant a lot to a timid little girl. How dare @The_Globe try to undo inspiring women in history.”
Despite the protests, many support the decision.
One fan tweeted: “Absolutely love this idea! Writers and scholars have talked about Joan as a gender-conforming person who may identify as trans or non-binary living today, for decades. I mean, the official reason for Joan’s execution was their insistence on cross-dressing.”
And radio host Natasha Devon posted: “You know you can just watch one of the many productions where Joan of Arc isn’t non-binary or Anne Boleyn isn’t played by a black woman, right?”
Ms Terry defended the Globe’s production, adding: “Theatres make plays, and in plays anything is possible.
“Shakespeare did not write historically accurate plays. He has taken figures from the past to ask questions about the world around him.
“Shakespeare was not afraid of discomfort, and neither was the Globe.”
A statement on The Globe’s website confirmed that it is “committed to becoming an inclusive and diverse organization” ready to make the “necessary change”.
“We strive to create a culture and environment where everyone’s experience at Shakespeare’s Globe is equal, inclusive and fair,” it said.
I, Joan will run from August 25th to October 22nd.
Non-binary Joan of Arc play sparks uproar as critics take note of portrayal of cultural icon | Ents & Arts News
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