|Programme for a performance of Saint Joan,|
Lyceum Theatre (May 1926)
Huizinga's article was published in three subsequent issues of the Dutch magazine De Gids (April, May and June 1925) and occupies more than thirty pages in his collected works.
Huizinga, who thought of Shaw as a prosaic mind, was surprised by the serious heroism of the play, and the effort to recreate history in a tragedy. He argued that Shaw had understood Hegel's principle that tragedy doesn't result from the conflict between justice and injustice, but from the conflict between justice and justice. If Jeanne d'Arc had had to face cowards and bastards (Huizinga's words), she would have been a romantic character, not a dramatic one. Shaw took history seriously, all too seriously according to the historian, because he wanted to know what her ordeal could tell us today. Even Shaw's mistakes - wrong names, wrong quotes - don't matter to Huizinga, who subtly mentions them.
Huizinga's main questions in connection to the performance and Ricketts's designs are these: has Shaw given the play a medieval atmosphere, and if so, has it any bearing on the dramatic achievement of the play?
|Charles Ricketts, Drop-curtain for Saint Joan (1924)|
Given Shaw's version of this medieval story, the Dutch production would seem to be better suited for it, due to its austere design by Wijdeveld, the absence of historical props, and a subdued realism. But no, Huizinga argues, the play is better served with a colourful medieval setting, as the acting, the costumes and the scene decorations together produce a realistic unity. The lack of an austere style wouldn't go well with a severe performance. Ricketts's colourful and exalted costumes, on the other hand, created a vibrant, harmonious world. Huizinga asserted that the Dutch tradition displayed all varieties of grey, while the British theatre world traditionally excelled in a range of red colours, which he supposed to have come from the Pre-Raphaelites.
As to the actors, Huizinga disliked the acting of Sybil Thorndike, which he characterised as affected and pretentious; for the Dutch production a young actress had been cast for the role of Jeanne, and her performance was boyish, spontaneous, and natural.
|Charles Ricketts, Set design for the Epilogue (1924)|
A few years later, Ricketts - who remained in contact with his European friends - would send Roland Holst a copy of his new book Beyond the Threshold with a handwritten dedication that referred to 'forty years of friendship'.