Joan Trial Solo Performance
‘I am a war child.
My uncle, a sea captain, called me off the Florida seas one October morning. He told me Dubrovnik, my hometown, had been bombed. I was a foreign exchange student in Bastrop, Louisiana at the time. This was 1991.’
‘And I, Lena Šimić, in my own name, born a Yugoslav, since the war a Croatian, soon to become British, raised a Catholic, with reservations about religion and the existence of God, with two young sons, one attending St Vincent de Paul Catholic Primary School, the other to start in a couple of years time, in my role as a mother, an artist, a performer, a researcher, a scholar, a foreigner, a critic competent in this matter…’
‘I swear by Almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’
Using autobiographical material from her Catholic upbringing, personal experience of war in her hometown of Dubrovnik, Croatia, and her daily life as a mother and performance artist in Liverpool, Lena Simic offers a bold re-figuration of Joan of Arc and challenges assumptions about heroism. Transcripts from Joan of Arc’s 15th century trial for heresy form the basis of Lena’s intervention into the themes of heroism, religion, war, home and dislocation. Presented in an intimate setting, this moving solo performance combines video footage, sound installation and live action.
Joan Trial is supported by the Arts Council England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Nuffield Theatre. It was first presented in October 2005 in the Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster. Performance has subsequently toured to the Leeds Met Studio Theatre, the ShowRoom at University of Chichester, Cornerstone Festival at Liverpool Hope University, Transit V Festival at Odin Theatre in Holstebro Denmark and to the National Review of Live Art at Tramway, Glasgow.
‘Let me just clarify a few things.
I bought this lamp second hand for £20 from Quiggins, Liverpool’s alternative shopping centre. There was a violent fight going on in the store next door – two men, faces covered in blood. The lady who sold me the lamp said that there is often trouble with Joe and Jack. I told her that this lamp will be used for a performance and that I was paying for it with Arts Council money. She quickly issued me with a receipt. I swing it for theatrical effect. I will do it a number of times during this performance.
Here we have hanging a simple, possibly universal soldier’s jacket – purchased for £9.99 at Quiggins – aforementioned Liverpool’s alternative shopping centre that caters for young anarchists, Goths and punks. I believe that Joan would like shopping there.’
‘As a child, I was often bored during Mass. I’d watch St Michael, the archangel, above the church altar.
He’s fighting Lucifer. He’s got his foot on Lucifer’s head. And he’s got a spear. This is Sveti Mihajlo church in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
I imagine what it’s like fighting with him – him an archangel, me one of his angels.
Then I think about Lucifer, the fallen angel, the one that was loved by God the most.
But let me stick with God’s favourite: St Michael.’
Anđele moj mali,
moj čuvaru blagi,
budi tebi hvala
što me čuvaš malu,
čuvaj me dok živim,
da ti ništa ne skrivim
Left Left Left
Aged 5, I was chosen to head the town procession for Tito, our beloved president. I was wearing the second T of his name T I T O. The red T was attached to my white top with some safety pins.
Left Left Left
I wrote to Tito in hospital. I was 6 when he died. I was a member of young socialist Pioneers. I wore a red scarf and a blue hat with a red star. Yugoslavia dissolved before I was old enough to join the proper Communist party.’
‘Soldiers everywhere. In their uniforms. With guns. Lots of them. Lots of guns. I am 17, blond hair. They are talking to me. I am talking back to them. My Dad wasn’t there. He must have been sleeping on a reclining seat, somewhere. And there I am talking to these soldiers. War was definitely on.
Then I ran into a friend…’
‘Joan of Arc:
the angels, the saints, the voices, the bells (swing the lamp), and the war, of course.
A French heroine, 15th century France, 13 year old, hears these voices, St Michael to start with, the archangel. She cuts her hair, puts on a soldier’s uniform, gets a horse, a sword, meets a king, crowns the king, 100 year war, English in France, fighting, winning, being a hero, a soldier, a commander in war. Refusing to listen to all but God.
Who is this God of hers? Is he really on her side, on the side of the French, the peasants, the poor? How can God take sides anyway? And she dares guide us in his name?
I do like the angel stuff though.
George Bernard Shaw wrote a play about her. I know a monologue from it. In Slovak actually – I was trained there. Shaw was a frequent guest in Dubrovnik. A tourist. In his words: If you are looking for paradise on earth, come to Dubrovnik.’
Joan Trial has been assisted by:
Gary, Neal and Gabriel as performers
All accidental passers-by of my camera lens and especially
Nataša, Marina and Sanela
Elaine Aston, Gerry Harris and Kerstin Büschges
Women’s Writing for Performance workshops at Lancaster University, especially Curious (Leslie Hill and Helen Paris) and Performing Words (Geddy Aniksdal and Gilly Adams)
Dale Rathbone, set designer, yoga teacher and baby-sitter
Ross Dalziel, audio support
Sonja Stahor, programme/web designer
Berislav Vranešić, web programmer
Jeff Geerling, iDVD hacker
Henri da Massa, ebayer
George Bernard Shaw & Saint Joan
Walter Sidney Scott & The Trial of Joan of Arc
Matt Fenton, Steph Sims and the Nuffield
Arts Council England
Thank you all.