Joan of Arc reimagined as ‘gender questioning’ hero with they/them pronouns in new Globe play

The poster for I, Jon, showing Joan in a chainmail headpiece and binder, and a historical painting of Joan of Arc

A new play reimagining “legendary leader” Joan of Arc as a gender non-conforming hero who uses they/them pronouns is to open at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.

Performed in the open-air theatre, I, Joan will explore the legendary story of Joan of Arc – who was famously burnt at the stake after becoming a military leader in medieval France – from a queer perspective.

A synopsis for the play reads: “The men are all fighting, again. An endless war. From nowhere, an unexpected leader emerges. Young, poor and about to spark a revolution. This is Joan.

“Rebelling against the world’s expectations, questioning the gender binary, Joan finds their power and their belief spreads like fire.”

The lead role will be played by Isobel Thom, who also uses they/them pronouns.

The new production of I, Joan has not been without controversy, however, with Hadley Freeman, Allison Pearson and more claiming that the play is an attempt to “cancel history’s inspirational women”.

The Globe theatre has stated that the play is not erasing female history, instead portraying a different point-of-view, and that it stands by trans and non-binary people.

“For centuries, Joan has been a cultural icon portrayed in countless plays, books, films, etc. History has provided countless and wonderful examples of Joan portrayed as a woman,” the theatre said.

“This production is simply offering the possibility of another point of view. That is the role of theatre: to simply ask the question ‘imagine if?’.”

The play’s writer, Charlie Josephine, called it an “expansion of a historical figure”

“Joan was this working class young person who was transgressing gender at a time when it was really dangerous. That felt instantly relatable to me,” Josephine said.

“I was assigned female at birth, I’m non-binary, I’m from a working class background, I’ve often felt like I’ve had something to say and haven’t been permission to say it. So to get an opportunity… it was too good to be true.”

Though she has now left the role, former artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Emma Rice said in 2016 that she was keen to “bend gender” at the venue, and bring in more cross-dressing roles for women.

She kept to that promise with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which several roles – including Peter Quince, changed to “Rita” Quince – were gender-swapped.

She told the Times in 2016: “There’s no reason why Gloucester [in King Lear] can’t be a woman. If anybody bended gender it was Shakespeare, so I think it just takes a change of mindset.”

I, Joan will open at the Globe Theatre in London on 25 August.