A new Globe Theatre production exploring the life of Joan of Arc will see the legendary French heroine made into a non-binary character.
The historical figure is known for leading the French in battles against English soldiers in the Hundred Years War. She was burned at the stake aged at the age of 19.
Theatre bosses say the play, ‘I, Joan’ will “offer the possibility of another point of view” when it arrives later this month.
The lead role will be played by Isobel Thom, who also uses the pronouns “they/them” and the script has been altered to change the pronouns of the French patron saint.
Our new play I, Joan shows Joan as a legendary leader who uses the pronouns ‘they/them’. We are not the first to present Joan in this way, and we will not be the last. We can't wait to share this production with everyone and discover this cultural icon.https://t.co/19T7baWsRk pic.twitter.com/lrgOC59TvQ
— Shakespeare's Globe (@The_Globe) August 11, 2022
“For centuries, Joan has been a cultural icon portrayed in countless plays, books, films, etc,” said Michelle Terry, artistic director of The Globe.
“History has provided countless and wonderful examples of Joan portrayed as a woman.
“This production is simply offering the possibility of another point of view.
“That is the role of theatre: to simply ask the question ‘imagine if?’.”
She added: “Theatres produce plays, and in plays, anything can be possible.
“Shakespeare did not write historically accurate plays. He took figures of the past to ask questions about the world around him.
“Shakespeare was not afraid of discomfort, and neither is the Globe.”
The move sparked controversy among some, with some criticising the production for “rewriting” Joan of Arc as “not female”.
Journalist Allison Pearson wrote: "When I was a child, I had a book of inspiring women through history. Joan of Arc was one. That book and those amazing women meant a lot to a timid little girl. How dare The Globe try to cancel history’s inspirational women."
Others praised the show. One fan tweeted: “I absolutely love this idea! Writers and scholars have talked about Joan as a gender-conforming person, who might have identified as trans or non-binary had lived today, for decades.
“I mean, the formal reason for Joan’s execution was their insistence on cross-dressing.”
A statement on The Globe’s website affirmed that it was “committed to becoming an inclusive and diverse organisation” willing to make “necessary change”.
“We aim to create a culture and environment in which everyone’s experience at Shakespeare’s Globe is equal, inclusive, and equitable,” it said.
I, Joan is set to run from August 25 to October 22.