WHEN Newcastle actor, writer and director Callan Purcell was taking a break from a London acting course early this year, he was fascinated by the stories a tour guide told him and others about the renowned Joan of Arc while travelling around Paris on the roof of a double-deck tourist bus.
The guide’s words led him to do a lot of research into the life of the canonised St Joan.
At age 17, Joan led a French army to victory over an invading English force and was ultimately tried in court by English personnel and the French Burgundian officials who supported them. She was burned at the stake at age 19.
Purcell, 24, returned to Australia mid-year after completing a three-year course at London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama that led to him receiving a BA with Honours in Acting, with his focus on Collaborative and Devised Theatre.
He then met with Ann Croger, a co-founder of Maitland theatre company Upstage Youth Theatre, about the possibility of staging a new work which looked at Joan through young women’s eyes.
That play, Joan, which was devised by the predominantly-female team, under the direction of Callan Purcell and Ann Croger, will be staged at the Albion Way Barn in Woodville nightly from Thursday to Saturday this week at 8pm.
Joan has eight teenage girl actors, aged 12 to 18, with one male, aged 16, who plays all the male roles. Joan is played by Sophia Derkenne, who has just graduated from St Mary’s All Saints College at Maitland, where she was the year’s dux, and is auditioning for the National Institute of Dramatic Arts acting course.
The other cast members are Sybylla Coates, Lucy Coren, Noah Curry, Mia Freeman, Milla Kime, Arden Kelly, Ruby Pinter, and Lillian Stewart.
The girls drew on things that had happened in their lives and relationships, with the work focusing on how women are viewed in today’s world.
While Joan has often been a figure in plays, operas and other works since her death in 1431, making a brief appearance in Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part One in 1590, men have generally been the central figures.
George Bernard Shaw’s play St Joan, for example, which premiered in 1923, three years after she was canonised by the Catholic Church, has her as the only female character in its more than three-hour running time, and she makes brief appearances.
Joan runs for a brisk 70 minutes at the historic Albion Way Barn which has an entrance at 837 Paterson Road, Woodville.
Tickets for the show, $20, can be booked through the Upstage website, upstageyouththeatre.com.au
Micro Theatre Launch
The Newcastle Micro Theatre team has announced the key dates for submissions and performances for next year’s event in late May, and unlike previous years where the dates were announced at formal events, they should now be online at www.microtheatre.com.au
The Micro Theatre Festival Director, Kate Dun, opened the entry for scripts on Saturday, with the closing date being Monday, February 4.
The final 12-show program, venues and directors will be announced on Wednesday, April 3, with tickets going on sale then.
There will be three performance venues, including the popular Press Book House Cafe, in Hunter Street, and two new places, Birdy’s Café at Tighes Hill, and the Bolton Street Pantry, in Newcastle, with venue technical runs from May 13 to 18, and a full dress rehearsal on Sunday, May 19.
The festival will be held over two weeks, from May 23 to June 1, with shows performed between Thursday and Saturday.
The awards presentations to winners in various categories will be on Sunday, June 2.
Circus with soul
ONE show that promises to make January a happy New Year is Soul and Cirque, a combination of uplifting soul music and astonishing circus artistry that will be presented at Lizotte’s Newcastle, at Lambton, on Saturday, January 5.
The live band will deliver the classic Motown sound, and there will be international aerial and ground acrobats performing routines that will have watchers amazed.