A grilliant performance: UBC Theatre and Film’s Saint Joan of the Stockyards takes centre stage

Are you ready to 'meat' your class reality?

Savour the modern context, where factory farms churn out both ready-to-eat meals and readily disposable workers; sear into your mind the catchy hymns of our mighty, divinely appointed savior Joan Dark. And when it all starts to go down — try to start a revolution with your fellow poor.

This is UBC Theatre and Film’s Saint Joan of the Stockyards, directed by MFA candidate Jacob Zimmer.

The play, which was written between 1929–31 by Bertolt Brecht and adapted from the original German by Zimmer, laid a perfectly butterflied filet of capitalism, religiosity and revolutionary fervour on the stage.

Set in early 20th century Chicago, Saint Joan of the Stockyards reimagines the historical Jeanne d’Arc as Joan Dark, revolutionary martyr in the fight between bloated industrial meat factory owners and the workers they attempt to exploit in the name of profit. Although set in a narrow context, the themes, conflict and emotion of this piece go beyond the script and are easily relatable to the audience.

With minimalist but well-placed staging, lighting and sound cues, Saint Joan throws the focus onto the actors, allowing them to thrive (or become mincemeat) under the weight of the script. These actors were all prime grade and flourished under the pressure, but there were a few standout performances.

As the enigmatic antagonist Mauler the Meat King, Simon Auclair-Troughton was a clear star of the show. His subtle villainous physicality, excellent comedic timing and endearing dialogue delivery stole the stage from his first appearance — to make a university audience love a businessman is no mean feat, and speaks to Auclair-Troughton’s skill on stage. Playing opposite him as Joan Dark was Rachel Angco, who easily rose to Auclair-Troughton’s challenge and refused to be overshadowed. Although the character’s naivety and righteousness could have quickly fallen flat, Angco added refreshing variety to her delivery that kept the part engaging, and ironically, not preachy.

The supporting cast continually played off each others’ energy, finding ways to shine in every scene. Yi Ming Liu as Slift, Mauler’s right hand man, was an incredible force of character and refreshing burst of humour whenever they were visible. The chemistry between Liu and Auclair-Troughton was clear, subsidizing quick and entertaining banter between the two. While Slift may have been a slimy underling, Liu’s portrayal left the audience hoping that they would take centre stage.

Another clear winner in this zero-sum revolution was Skylar Somnus as Rancher. Somnus’ rough-edged physicality shone in the minimalist staging, adding necessary variety to the incendiary revolutionary mindset of the rest of the supporting cast. Although the entire cast gave strong performances, these two supporting standouts ensured that you never looked away.

From the smallest neckline details by costume designer Madeleine Polak, to the appearance of a real sandwich in act two, each tiny element was polished and well thought out. Additional creative choices such as the presence of live music and the extension of the stage into the audience grounded the play in our reality, inviting the audience to consider where they stand: The Stockyard, or the Stock Exchange.

If you are a fan of impactful monologues, witty exchanges, Wes Anderson-esque signage, meat puns and excellent acting, UBC Theatre and Film’s Saint Joan of the Stockyards is the play for you! Tickets are available through UBC Theatre and Film’s website, with the show running until April 13.

There was a packed theatre on opening night, so be sure to 'steak' your claim on tickets before they’re gone!