Non-binary actor Isobel Thom makes theater history: I, Joan review | Theater | Entertainment

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Joan believed they had a hotline with God directing them in their mission. This claim, along with their blasphemous insistence on dressing as a man, led them to the stake. No wonder non-binary writer Josephine and director Ilinca Radulian find in Joan an icon of history who could be turned into a trans “sheroine.”

On a set consisting of a huge curved wooden wall over which the actors glide across the stage like joyful children, the modern costume production is carried out at farcical speed with additional dancing and music from a band brass and percussion.

The battle scenes are choreographed like martial arts contests with a few courteous gestures thrown in for mischief.

The first half is exuberantly theatrical and Thom is the firecracker at its center.

The petulant Dauphin of Jolyon Coy (later King Charles VII) is Joan’s humorous foil while the stranger Thomas (Adam Gillen) is their anxious ally.

Josephine offers no new historical perspective but radicalizes the context with some justification.

When Joan dons a jumpsuit and breastplate and cuts her hair with a sword, they become something like the man inside, even though “there’s no word for me yet.”

It’s to Thom’s credit that they retain Joan’s innocence and indomitable spirit throughout, even snatching an arrow from their shoulder or challenging the clergy to a theological battle of wits.

Alas, the second half descends into controversy in which Joan adopts a hectoral tone to address the audience, the theme of gender identity crushing a narrative that was initially superficial.

It’s a relief when Yolande, Charles’s mother (a beautifully imperious Debbie Korley) concludes, “You’re not like a woman at all.

Maybe not. But Thom is certainly an exciting new stage presence.

  • Shakespeare’s Globe until 22 October Tickets: 020 7401 9919


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