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Joan of Leeds

“Irreverent, carnal, anarchic”

Breach made its name with a series of shows exploring the idea of re-enactment, most notably It’s True, It’s True, It’s True, a potent piece based on the transcripts of a 17th-century rape trial. This alternative Christmas production sees the company dipping into the past once more.

Drawing on accounts of a 14th-century nun who faked her own death and fled her convent to live with a man, Billy Barrett and Ellice Stevens’ show is carnal and anarchic.

Joan’s story is being staged by the Yorkshire Medieval Players, the kind of bickering am-dram outfit in which the League of Gentlemen’s Ollie Plimsolls would feel right at home. Bryony Davies plays Joan as a young woman of sexual appetite who, having been packed off to a nunnery, ends up falling for a fellow sister before doing a bunk.

This results not in liberation, but with her shacked up with a chap and having repetitive, desperately unsatisfying sex in a 1970s suburban kitchen, a pointed comment on the ways in which women’s sexual wants and needs have historically always been erased, constrained or equated with sin.

Alex Roberts and Bryony Davies in Joan of Leeds at the New Diorama

Atmospherically lit by Alex Fernandes and garishly costumed by Lizzy Leech, Barrett’s production has an appealingly messy energy. There’s an abundance of blowjobs and bonking. The cast are game, cantering around in tangerine wimples and mustard Y-fronts.

The show lacks the clarity of purpose of the company’s previous work, the comic potential of the framing device goes underexplored and its tale of lesbian awakening coupled with a would-be cathartic attempt to re-write history feels a bit muted, but it’s still gleefully irreverent and an awful lot of fun, stuffed with rutting nuns and horny angels, thumping drums and bobbing bums.

Breach Theatre: ‘A really exciting company that will only get better’

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Production Details
Production nameJoan of Leeds
VenueNew Diorama
StartsDecember 3, 2019
EndsDecember 21, 2019
Running time1hr 10mins
AuthorBilly Barrett, Ellice Stevens
DirectorBilly Barrett
Set designerLizzy Leech
Lighting designerAlex Fernandes
Sound designerOwen Crouch
CastBryony Davies, Laurie Jamieson, Olivia Hirst, Rachel Barnes, Alex Roberts
ProducerBreach, Ellie Claughton
VerdictIrreverent alternative festive show based on the true story of a runaway nun
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Natasha Tripney

Natasha Tripney

Natasha Tripney

Natasha Tripney

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