14th January 2016
In what is obviously a very special year for the Bristol Old Vic the Bristol Old Vic Young Company (BOVYC) have taken on what maybe the most ambitious project they have ever undertaken.
For St Joans of The Stockyard, by Bertolt Brecht, is the kind of play that much older casts wrestle without success, and covers topics not oft explored by such young minds.
In this version of the story of Joan of Arc, Brecht transforms her into Joan Dark (Kate Alhadeff), a member of the ‘Black Straw Hats’ (a Salvation Army-like group) in 20th-century Chicago.
A fundamentalist Christian missionary, Joan battles with Pierpont Mauler (Joshua Robinson), the obsequious owner of a meatpacking plant.
Like her namesake, Joan Dark is a doomed woman, a martyr and (initially, at least) an innocent in a world of strikebreakers, fat cats, and penniless workers. Like many of Brecht’s plays it is laced with humour and deals with the theme of emancipation from material suffering and exploitation.
Director Nik Partridge, states that he chose the story as the latest BOYVC project as he was “hugely excited by the aesthetic of the world and…[by] a story with startling relevance to today’s world”.
The aesthetic Partridge has developed is most engaging with a gaudy neon cross blended together with authentic clothing and grimy black face paint, emphasising the cowed nature of the down and outs.
Collectively the cast put on a full-blooded and intense performance mixing in entertainingly choreographed dance and marching and wonderful harmonies that gives this early twentieth century story a modernist sheen.
In the central roles of Joan Dark (Kate Alhadeff) & Pierpont Mauler (Joshua Robinson) we find two performers really blooming in their would be profession. Robinson is effortless with his interpretation of Mauler – witty and wry throughout, while Alhadeff pulls off the stoic naivety of Joan with a level of maturity that belies her age.
St Joans of the Stockyards is an ambitious exploration that sees two stars really shine, with startlingly mature performances that exhibit the very best of Bristol Old Vic Young Company.
To find more shows at the Bristol Old Vic click here.
Photos by Camilla Adams