Behind the Scenes – Saint Joan

Behind the Scenes – Saint Joan


– A lot of people consider
Saint Joan his masterpiece. Bernard Shaw was already nearly 70 when he wrote the play and he’d written pretty
much all the other plays for which he’s famous by then. But I think he really
did crown his achievement with this play. (chorus sings) – [Tim] Well everyone knows
the story of Joan of Arc. We all know that she
was burnt at the stake and not everyone knows
exactly how that happened. And Bernard Shaw has really followed the story very accurately. It all happened in the fifteenth century. A 17 year old girl comes out of nowhere and suddenly effectively defeats the whole English army, by putting fire into the French troops and turning the tide
of a war that was going against the French at that time. It’s an amazingly uplifting story. It’s one of those stories
which if you had invented it, you’d say it was really imlpausible, but it all happened. – I mean it’s Shaw’s
great argument, like it is you know one of the great
plays of the western canon. – Yes we are doing it in
what you’d call modern dress, but I would also like to refer to it as no historical time. So the choices that we’re making in terms of what people are wearing, are designed to allow the audience to quickly identify levels of conformity and levels of society. So it’s a bit like going, Oh I identify that guy as a businessman ’cause he’s got that Bay street suit on. How he behaves after that, you don’t know. – Bernard Shaw was very clear in his notes to the play that he didn’t really
want a medieval setting. And he was quite cross
with the first production which was very medieval,
medieval costumes. He said, they’ve killed my play. – We looked a lot at the California art and space movement, primarily at an artist
named James Turrell, another artist named Robert Irwin that’s been a reference. And they are artists that work with light in the sixties and seventies. And light and perception, light and spirituality, that’s part of their focus. – You create somehow in this space a sense of awe, a sense of mystery even if you want to call it at
times a surprising moment of magic because ultimately is the magic faith, is it
religion is it science? All of those questions
I think are very alive in Shaw’s thinking. – Well the cast of Saint
Joan is a real mixture of new and familiar
faces here at the Shaw. So we have great stalwarts
of the Shaw like Ben Campbell and Jim Mezon playing very important roles but then in the central
role of Saint Joan we have Sarah Topham whose never played
at the Shaw before at all. So she’s a great piece of casting, and she’s doing amazing work. – The way that the space is set up, it has a rake and the
rake is set in such a way and the play in space that is should look like it’s floating in darkness. – I think that people watching this will make lots of connections
with the modern world but I don’t draw that explicitly, therefore, in some ways I
would hope that my production will feel quite timeless. Anyone who loves theater knows that Saint Joan is
one of the great roles. And I think it’s a
really exciting element, in a production like this that you get to see one of
Canada’s finest actresses challenging herself with
one of the great roles and she won’t play it again, probably. So this is your one chance to see how that meeting between
a great actress and a great role goes down.

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