Review: Joan of Arc - A Musical, at Arts4Every1

12:25pm Friday 21st October 2011

By Sandra Carter

WHAT do you do when you feel a long-standing urge to put on a musical about Joan of Arc – even when you’ve never written anything before?

You get up at 5am before work and get writing over three weeks, you find an old contact with some musical experience, you gather a group of singers from surrounding towns, find people to sort out lights and spears, crossbows and helmets, and knitters of chainmail. You hire a venue and invite them in.

That’s what Bob Davis did a year ago from his home in Marlow. And the first performances of Joan of Arc: A Musical at High Wycombe parish church were a huge success.

This week they are repeating it at Arts4every1 for those, like me, who missed it but heard enthusiastic reports of its appeal.

It’s an extraordinary accomplishment. Bob Davis’s words and storyline are superb, with the action moving from quiet village life to army camp, to the Dauphin’s palace to the English inquisition to the bonfire on which Joan burns (which is managed very effectively). So lots of fast-paced changes of scene and atmosphere.

The music by Mark Britton, of High Wycombe, who also directs, is winsome with some excellent melodies, solo pieces and choral triumphs.

The accolades need to go on – costumes, lights, village kids at play. And of course the singers themselves: the cast of around 50 sing their hearts out and the standard is impresive. Sarah Coope, who plays Joan, is simply superb not only with a lovely voice but acting ability too. Sarah helps run the international ROPE charity from its HQ in Great Missenden by day, but is hugely talented as a singer.

Leading man is Francis Forbes-Edwards as Alencon, a music student with great singing ability and fine presence. The ‘voice from heaven’, James Valentine, got special applause for his sonorous contribution.

The team are hoping the musical will continue to have a life beyond south Bucks. The audience certainly seemed to agree this week.

Joan of Arc: A Musical continues tonight at 8pm, tomorrow (Saturday) at 3pm and 8pm, at Arts4every1, Old St John’s Church, Desborough Road, High Wycombe. Tickets 0844 3570093 or www.joanofarcamusical.com

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