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Plummer brings the Lark to life on the Stratford stage

Diana Forbes | Interrobang | Lifestyles | August 29th, 2005



Amanda Plummer's childish grin and gleaming eyes give life to a woman who has been dead for almost 600 years.

The Lark, on stage at Stratford's Festival Theatre until October 29, recounts the tale of Joan of Arc through a series of flashbacks the heroin experiences during her legendary trial in 1431. Joan, played by seasoned stage, film and television actress Amanda Plummer, is portrayed as a Saint, heretic, innocent child and mature women, all in the course of two intense hours.

The play was written by Jean Anouilh in 1953 for a French audience and adapted by Lillian Hellman, shortly thereafter in English. Although the basics of the plot centres around the life and times of Joan of Arc, Stratford Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg takes the liberty to set the scene and costume attire as if the drama was unfolding during the later years of World War II.

Considering the bulk of the performance is set around Joan's trail, the stage is minimally dressed with a large firing wall, which doubles as a prison gate, and a dirty mattress serving as one of Plummer's only props. As Joan's life is flashed before the audience's eyes, props like chairs, desks and even a makeshift trolley full of wood to fuel Joan's fiery death, smoothly don the stage and transform it from scene to the scene.

Plummer's performance is not only the highlight of the play, but without her animated portrayal and thoughtful silences, the theatrical relevance would be lost to the intense drama. Plummer's role was almost destined considering her father, Canadian actor and Stratford veteran Christopher Plummer, starred in the 1955 Broadway production of The Lark as Warwick, the English Earl who plays a key role in Joan's cross examination.

The Lark is Plummer's debut performance in Stratford, but she has had an extremely successful acting career. Her movie credits include Pulp Fiction, Butterfly Kisses and The Fisher King. She has won a Toni Award, as well as two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for her work on stage and in television.

The play itself speaks to the theme of war, not just during the French revolution or last century's Nazi occupation, but the adaptation also suggests parallels to that of the current conflict in Iraq. Specifically, the character of Charles, the Dauphin, played by the energetic Steven Sutcliffe, can be compared to a very junior George W. Bush.

Aside from the snoring heard a few rows back and a couple awkward moments of laughter, the entire drama did justice to the revolutionary life of Joan of Arc.

Tickets for the Lark are available trough Stratford Festival box offices.

For more information on the Stratford Festival plays, the Lark or any of the actors visit the Stratford Festival website at www.stratfordfestival.ca
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