The Lark, Fast Intent’s new theatre production at Smock Alley.

New Irish theatre company Fast Intent are currently staging Jean Anouilh’s The Lark (translation by Christopher Fry) at the Boys School, Smock Alley Theatre. The Lark is a dramatic account of the extraordinary life of Joan of Arc.

The Boys School at Smock Alley, seating 70 provided the ideal setting for this story with good acoustics for such a performance, in a setting of brickwork and Gothic window frames from Smock Alley’s past as church, a brothel, a school-house and a theatre and other uses.

The play begins after Joan has been captured by the French refuse to pay a ransom to get her back so the English, then put for trial for heresy by the English backed Church court. The British through Warwick (Dave Fleming) would like to dispense of a hearing and have her burned quickly. The Bishop Cauchon (Gerard Adlum) heading up her interrogation provides Joan (Caitriona Ennis) the opportunity to tell her story.

Re-enacting her life form a young age for the court, Joan (Caitriona Ennis), recalls working in her parents’ fields receiving visions from God telling her to drive the English powers from France. Later she hears voices from Saints Catherine and Margaret telling her that she would lead the French army against the English. Telling her parents she must lead the army they believe she is either mad or wants to run off with a soldier. She leaves her village and on arrival at the Dauphin’s palace at Chinon, (a man of weak convictions) she seeks command an army to defeat the British.

At first Dauphin is reluctant to meet with Joan, but then decides to have someone else take his place while he had secretly hides himself among his court for security reasons, Joan immediately walked right up to him (even though she had never seen him before) and pledged to help him defeat the English and see his coronation as France’s true king.

We learn of her years of military triumphs that made her popular with the masses, but her voices, beliefs, self-confidence and apparent supernatural powers had given her many enemies in high places. Charles has enough of war and would prefer to sign a treaty with England. The King now taking advice from his council wants to distant himself from any influence Joan may have had in his coronation. Joan puts her faith in God and appeals to the common people to continue the fight even without the king’s support, leading to her capture.

Throughout Joan testimony she is constant provoked by The Promoter (Ian Toner) The Inquisitor (Jennifer Laverty) and Brother Ladvenu in an attempt break Joan’s loyalty for her King (despite deserting her) and her convictions for the voices who commanded her. Cauchon constantly seeks to keep order and in the end pleads with Joan to save herself from execution by handing herself back into the control of the church, not so much to save her but to rid him responsibility of her death.

The Lark is a story of belief, passion and the struggle for a single voice to be heard above the abusive authority of government, church and older people who feared Joan’s idealism. Good direction by Sarah Finlay window arches of the building nicely that are used very effectively for settingwith the soft lighting by Eoghan Carrick.

Caitriona Ennis gaves a commanding and convincing performance as Joan, along with Gerard Adlum as the Bishop and strong support from the rest of the cast who played numerous roles. Jean Anouilh’s The Lark does takes stray a little from historical account the trail of Joan including one odd event  towards the end, which may be the subject of debate post show.

Overall this is a very engaging  production from Fast Intent a new production company, colourful and often humorous edge to the proceedings, with simple yet evocative costuming and a high energy acting style. Running until Saturday August 11th at the Boys School, Smock Alley Theatre ‘The Lark’ is certain to provide an evening at the theatre that will not disappoint.

I would love to hear your view on The Lark once you have seen it.

Director: Sarah Finlay

Cast: Caitríona Ennis Ger Adlum, Shane Connolly, Dave Fleming, Ruairí Heading, Jennifer Laverty and Ian Toner.

Lighting design Eoghan Carrick

Set design: Paul Fox,

Costume design Frieda Finlay

Ticket prices: €15, Conc. €12.50 (Until August 11th ).

The Boy’s School, Smock Alley Theatre. Matinees: Saturday 4thAug/ Saturday 11th at 3pm.

© Tom Dowling 2012

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