Entertainment & Arts

Gemma Arterton 'glows' as Saint Joan at Donmar Warehouse

Gemma Arterton in Saint Joan Image copyright Jack Sain
Image caption Arterton said the play feels "relevant to the time"

Actress Gemma Arterton has been praised by critics for her portrayal of Joan of Arc in Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan.

According to the Evening Standard, the 30-year-old "glows with ardour" as the martyred French warrior.

The Telegraph says the play proves the "former Bond girl's stock continues to rise as a serious stage actress."

Yet its critic admits to having "many misgivings" over how the Donmar Warehouse's modern-dress production "blasts things up to date".

'Very Brexit-y play'

Set around a revolving boardroom table, the staging features large television screens showing stock market reports and news bulletins, one of them hosted by Newsnight's Evan Davis.

Such embellishments were too emphatic for The Stage's Natasha Tripney, who said it felt like the play was "hitting its audience over the head with a rolled-up newspaper."

Speaking after Monday's press night, director Josie Rourke said she wanted the play - first staged in 1923 - "to resonate with what's happening now".

"It's a very 'Brexit-y' play in some ways," she told the BBC. "It's about charismatic leadership and populism and popular revolution."

"It's good when you do a classic play and it feels relevant to the time," said Arterton, who appeared with Daniel Craig in 2008's Quantum of Solace.

"You want people to relate it to something, and I think it does relate to what's going on at the moment."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Arterton said she "couldn't wait" to cut her hair for the role

Arterton, whose recent stage roles in London include Nell Gwynn and the Duchess of Malfi, sports a gamine crop for her role as Joan, the Catholic saint who was burned at the stake in 1431.

The actress said she "couldn't wait' to shed her usual long tresses and that she wanted to keep her hair short "for a while".

"I had longer hair for the first week and a half of rehearsals and it felt really weird, like an appendage or something," she continued.

"Women cutting their hair off doesn't feel very important now, but at the time it was what set Joan apart."

Sir Lenny Henry was in the audience at the Donmar on Monday, while Tom Hiddleston made an appearance at the after-show party.

Sir Lenny will be seen at the Donmar next year in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Uri, while Thor star Hiddleston appeared at the intimate London venue in 2013.

Saint Joan runs until 18 February and will be shown live in cinemas on 16 February.

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