The Rabble explore female power and persecution through their latest work, Joan – a spectacular portrayal of France’s medieval heroine, Joan of Arc.
The Rabble was formed in 2006 by creatives Kate Davis and Emma Valente who are also co-creators of Joan. Their desire was to make work that wasn’t being produced in Australia: visually ambitious, political, feminist and formally experimental. Their work has been praised and lauded in all its forms with Joan being no exception. Realised in black and white, Joan pays homage to the art of live oration and silent film.
Valente acknowledges that Joan is such complex icon. “Throughout history she has been used to define French nationalism, feminism, piousness, madness, virginity, rebellion, she is a saint and a martyr : all evidence of the extraordinary historical, and mythical figure she is,” she says.
“In the early 21st century we are witnessing a number of women in power from all sides of politics and persuasions who are speaking, or purporting to speak, for themselves and others. We are also witnessing society’s reactions to these voices. What is so extraordinary about Joan, is that she was a teenage girl in the early 15th century, a virgin, who claimed to hear the voice of God, who dressed as a man, and convinced an army of men to follow her. She is an epic tragic figure and so many people have strong thoughts, beliefs or feelings about her and her story and she has inspired centuries of artists from painters to filmmakers.”
The creators are interested in exploring the poetic, haunting and meaningful from a female perspective. Says Valente: ” The Rabble is myself and Kate Davis and is essentially an ongoing conversation we have about poetic, literary and iconic texts. We are drawn to literary forms mostly about or by women. We often pursue ideas or themes to a point of ambiguity. When we begin to feel uncomfortable or unsure, we know we have the idea for our next work or idea.”
“Kate and I started The Rabble because we were interested not just in the stories of and by women but also in the aesthetics involved in staging these stories theatrically, symbolically and visually. When we creating work, Kate and I and our collaborating artists generate material from scratch drawing inspiration through source materials. Sometimes this is written material but we are also equally informed by conversation, sound, light, design, film, gesture and symbolism. As we generate this material, Kate and I take on multiple disciplines at once: I am the co creator of the show but also the, sound and lighting designer; and Kate is a co creator and the set and costume designer. In RABBLE work, the disciplines inform each other equally. Time management is definitely a major challenge for both of us though as we’re both doing the work that would normally be done by 3 people.”
Joan is in four acts. Each of these acts explores key aspects of Joan as an icon: The Light, The Body, The Fire, The Voice. Joan is a teenage girl. A virgin soldier who will convince an army of men that she hears the voice of the divine. Her body will become the site of a nation’s anxieties and hopes. She will burn.
“A large amount of the transcript of Joan’s arduous trial is available to us,” explains Valente. “From this we can hear what she actually said, not what others say about her. The actual words of a women in the 15th century speaking for herself is an extraordinary occurrence and she is steadfast in this voice. During the trial she is harangued and bullied but she remains particular, often correcting and confirming the words she has said or chosen. This authenticity of her voice feels important and this work is an homage to Joan’s voice and who she represents.”
Playing till April 30