Review: Pope Joan – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at St James’s Church Piccadilly

“Something is happening, something ungodly”

Thickly pungent clouds of incense, masses of supernumeraries dressed as glowering monks, the plaintive drone of the organ interrupted only by the dramatic peals of the church bells – there could hardly be a more atmospheric venue for the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain to launch their autumn season. And in Louise Brealey’s debut play Pope Joan, the ecclesiastical setting of St James’s Church in Piccadilly gains an especial resonance given that even now, over 1000 years since the apocryphal medieval story took place, the Church still doesn’t know how to deal with women. 

Brealey, perhaps unfairly best known as the wretched Molly in Sherlock, has alighted on the ninth century legend of the only woman ever to have (allegedly) become pope and used it to explore the uneasy interface between gender and religion, the way in which the patriarchy has assumed dominance over society and will do anything to protect, and also the journey of one person’s faith and their struggle to be able to pursue it as their spirit dictates. Continue reading “Review: Pope Joan – National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at St James’s Church Piccadilly”