Chester Little Theatre is launching an ambitious production of The Lark, the story of Joan of Arc by Jean Anouilh.

The action of the play is set in a court and we are all invited to “judge” this simple young woman in 15th century France as she urges her countrymen to fight against the occupying English.

This reflects the experience of the playwright, who lived in Paris during the occupation of the Nazis in the 1940s.

Joan knows that she takes great risks but she is compelled to act. The French are uncertain of their future; the man who should be their leader – the dauphin or heir-apparent – is weak and vacillating; society and the church are horrified at the thought of a woman leading the army, especially one who insists on wearing men’s clothes.

Laura Smith as Joan, Tony Kemp as the Archbishop of Reims and Malcolm Gledhill as the Earl of Warwick in the Chester Little Theatre production of The Lark
Laura Smith as Joan, Tony Kemp as the Archbishop of Reims and Malcolm Gledhill as the Earl of Warwick in the Chester Little Theatre production of The Lark
 

But Joan’s single-mindedness succeeds in rousing the French to rise up against the English and for a while they are successful.

However, Joan is betrayed. Both the English and the people she tried to help, the French, reject her and she pays the ultimate price.

There are similarities between Joan’s history and the brave members of the resistance in the Second World War who put their lives at risk while knowing the penalty of being discovered.

The play shows a young woman driven to sacrifice her own personal desires for what she sees as a greater, more urgent need: the future of her country.

Although historically we know she is executed, the ending of Anouilh’s play is uplifting: it does not dwell on death but is a celebration of Joan and a reminder of the strength of man’s spirit.

With its large cast and historical pageant–like feel, the theatre is providing an opportunity to see this little-performed play which will be produced on an open stage in contemporary medieval costume.

It is directed by Hilary Egan whose production of Macbeth in 2012 drew excellent reviews.

The Lark can be seen on Saturday, May 10, then May 12-17 May at 7.30pm at Chester Little Theatre, Gloucester Street, Newtown, Chester.

Call the box office on 0844 870 0887 or visit www.chestertheatreclub.co.uk. This production is sponsored by Walker Smith Way Legal.