Joan review at the Marlborough Theatre, Brighton – ‘delightfully defiant’
As a previous winner of the UK contest Drag Idol, Lucy Jane Parkinson (who performs as LoUis CYfer) is well-established on the cabaret circuit, but her one-woman show is a more serious affair – a look at the ill-fated life of Joan of Arc, who infamously favoured male attire and was ‘possibly the world’s first drag king’.
Not that Parkinson lets the fact that her heroine goes up in flames at the end make things downbeat – for a production about martyrdom, it’s very funny indeed, livened up by earthy humour, some great songs and deft skewering of historical figures – the Dauphin, for example, is sleazy Eurotrash in shiny clothes.
Parkinson is a skilled drag artist – and transforms herself artfully throughout the show, a fascinating process to watch up close – but in some ways, the drag aspects are the least important, and Joan becomes a more universal symbol for anyone marginalised by the elite and the powerful. This is Joan gloriously and unapologetically reclaimed as a working class hero (with a working class accent), an outlier made freakish and disposable by both gender and class, a woman out of time who didn’t fit into the roles that society deemed appropriate. It is a delightfully defiant ode to the outsider that packs a surprising emotional punch.