Saint Joan of Arc is represented as ‘non-binary’ in London theater

Saint Joan of Arc will be represented in the play I, Joan (I, Joana) as a non-binary character, who will be treated only with neutral pronouns. The direction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where the play will open from August 25th, says that the work deals with “the possibility of another point of view”.

Recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church and patron saint of France, Joan of Arc played a key historical role in the siege of Orleans, between 1428 and 1429, a great French military victory over the English during the Hundred Years’ War. Moved by vision and faith, she went into battle, armed, at just 18 years old.

The play’s screenplay is by Charlie Josephine, a non-binary writer; and the actress who will play Joana is Isobel Thom, also non-binary. Directed by Ilinca Radulian. On Twitter, the Globe Theater said the play is not the first to portray Joan of Arc as non-binary. “Our new piece, I, Joan, shows Joan as a legendary leader who uses ‘they/them’ pronouns. We’re not the first to introduce Joan in this way, and we won’t be the last. We can’t wait to share this production with everyone and discover this cultural icon.”

The production aims to “question the binary genre” and “offer the possibility of another point of view,” said Michelle Terry, artistic director of the theater, which is a modern reconstruction of the original theater by the world’s most famous playwright, William Shakespeare.

“Theaters produce plays, and in plays anything can be possible. Shakespeare did not write historically accurate plays. He took figures from the past to ask questions about the world around him,” she said. Michelle stated that this reading is in line with the Oxford English Dictionarywhich traces the use of the pronoun “they” even for a singular person from the year 1375, long before Joan of Arc.

Play may be an attempt to ‘rewrite history’

However, not everyone believes in a non-binary Saint Joan of Arc. Frank Furedi, professor emeritus at the University of Kent, quoted by the British newspaper The Times, fears that the play is an opportunity to “rewrite history”. “Someone like Joan of Arc would have no idea what it’s like to be non-binary. It’s a reworking of something that didn’t even exist back then,” Furedi said, calling the project “an upside-down fantasy.”

Joan of Arc, for her views, was considered a heretic and sentenced to death. In 1431, she was burned at the stake. The Church solemnly rehabilitated Joan of Arc in 1456. Pius X beatified her in 1910 and ten years later Benedict XV canonized her.

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