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Review: Joan Of Leeds

Review: Joan Of Leeds

Review: Joan Of Leeds cover photo on Stagedoor
Everyone lets their hair down at Christmas, including Breach theatre.

This young company came out of Warwick university with The Beanfield, an invigorating documentary-theatre show about civil liberties.They followed it up with Tank about language and gender, and the company’s terrific 15th century rape trial verbatim piece It’s True, It’s True, It’s True is back in London at the Barbican next year. Definitely get yourself a ticket for that one.

Photos by The Other Richard.

The theme running through all those shows is an interrogation of history, contested versions of the same story and the impossibility of ever really knowing what happened. Breach’s work has always been laced with humour, some of it lethal, but they are going for full out fun in telling the apparently true story of Joan of Leeds (New Diorama), a 14th century nun who went AWOL, and doing it in the style of a group of medieval players staging a mystery play.

In this case one that is filthy. If you’ve always believed that Philip Larkin was right about sex being invented in 1963, think again. Joan got there first in 1381 when during a time of famine the teenager discovers her carnal appetite with a little help from a snake. For her sins she is incarcerated in a convent where she and Sister Agnes soon strike up a close friendship.

As in Lucy McCormick’s Triple Threat a number of familiar biblical stories get subverted, from the tale of Eve to the resurrection, in an evening that never takes itself too serious as it concentrates on giving an alternative view of women and sexuality. There is a terrific segment where Joan finds herself swapping one prison for another. It’s just the latter is fully fitted.

The show doesn’t quite manage to keep the jokes flowing freely, but Bryony Davies’ Joan has a nice line in incredulous snark, the cast of actor-musicians bring James Frewer’s songs to gaudy, bawdy life with skill and gusto, and you can’t help love an evening that takes such delight in killing a few sacred cows in its celebration of female sexual pleasure.

Joan Of Leeds runs at the New Diorama Theatre until Sat 21 Dec.

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Written by

Lyn Gardner

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