Joan of Arc reimagined as a teenage feminist
PUBLISHED: 12:48 11 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:48 11 June 2020
Islington writer Cressida Peever recorded her play Joan as a podcast during lockdown and says its message of grassroots activism against the domestic burden is timely
Islington theatre maker Cressida Peever had just finished her latest play when the global pandemic descended.
With all future projects cancelled at a stroke, the 27-year-old was determined to hang on to the project. So she and director Katharine Farmer turned Joan into an “audio drama” released as a podcast.
A timely look at grass-roots youth activism and female empowerment, it imagines a modern day Joan of Arc going on the warpath about womens’ domestic burden - via TikTok.
“It’s like a radio play without the radio,” says Peever.
“It was intended for the stage and Katherine had just started development with an actor when lockdown began. With the world falling apart around us, it occured to us both that it would work for radio. We considered a video version, but liked the idea of not being able to see the speaker and creating an audio world around it.”
Peever recorded kettles boiling and sourced free sound effects online, Farmer directed via Zoom, and actor Stephanie Booth ordered a mic on Amazon and turned a cupboard, padded with pillows, into a ‘studio’.
“It’s incredible what you can do from your home,” says Peever.
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“We realised there were all sorts of things we could do for ourselves.”
When Joan’s single mum - juggling several jobs - gets a health scare, it sets her off on a social media campaign to get wages for housework.
“I took the spark of who Joan of Arc might be today and transposed the facts about her - a 14-year-old zealot from a rural not affluent background,” says Peever.
“Then I chose a cause that was really important to me.”
“The domestic burden, the amount of work women do around the house that we are not compensated for - it’s just expected because it’s the system, the way we have been brought up, and we roll along with it. I liked the idea of having a young person point this out with childish logic ‘why are all you women doing this? Leave the men to look after themselves.”
Peever was inspired by Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women, which sets out the “science behind the sexism statistics”
“It’s an unemotional look at inequality based on data and describes things I recognise in my own behaviour but didn’t realise other women did, how we make our journeys longer to do little errands on the way, while men go from A to B.”
As Joan urges women to protest and stop doing unpaid work, it inflates demand for cleaners and childminders who start charging more.
“Imagine how much healthier and happier women would be if they were genuninely paid for their work?” asks Peever who adds that while social media can be “a powerful force”, “we also have to go out and make change happen in person.”
Joan is available to download via Apple podcasts and Peever adds: “It’s been great for me to work on it after all my work got cancelled. I hope some women will listen to it and feel some kinship or that their anger is justified, and for men it will be a bit of a wake up call about the women who have been doing this stuff for them - or at least be thankful.”
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