Sunday, 24 November 2002

Shadowlands, Nov 24, 2002

What: Shadowlands by William Nicholas  Chambers Theatre Company

Where: Athenaeum Theatre 2

When: Until December 8, 2002

Time: Wed to Sat 8pm Sunday 6pm

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

After New Year we will see on stage C.S. Lewis's children's book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Meanwhile we can see a snippet of his personal life on stage in Shadowlands by William Nicholas.

Lewis, writer of the Narnia  series of books, is here depicted at the watershed of his life. This stuffy old Oxford don falls in love with a most inappropriate woman.

Jim Shaw  plays Jack Lewis  with sympathy and skill. This old-fashioned Mediaeval Literature scholar mixes with only men who are equally stitched up and incompetent with women. ( Tony Thomas, Jim Alexander)

Between his scholarly studies Lewis wrote very successful science fiction and children's novels as well as treatises on Christianity. One of his avid fans was an American, Joy Gresham.  After they met, they formed an unusual platonic relationship.

When Joy's husband divorces her, Lewis secretly marries Joy purely to allow her to stay in England. Their friendship flourishes. Joy's sudden diagnosis with cancer is the catalyst for Lewis to confront his need and love for her.

As Joy, Gloria Ajenstat  is a fine foil for Shaw's fuddy-duddy propriety as Lewis. Joy is emancipated, garrulous, Jewish and American - a complete antithesis of the English don. She is also completely unafraid of the Oxford men who dislike her.

Bill Johnston  as Lewis's brother, Warnie  is a still, warm presence. The brothers' relationship represents the quiet pond of Oxford world before Joy tossed in a stone.

The script by Nicholas is a finely wrought emotional journey with detailed characterisations of Lewis and Joy.

Jasper Bagg's  direction focuses on script and character. There are some advantages to this choice.

However, the swift and frequent changes of location and time are uncomfortable and actors move too conspicuously from one part of the set to another.

Lighting (Des Jackson)  does not create sufficient sense of place. Music would enhance the movement between scenes and add atmosphere.

Shadowlands is a beautiful and eccentric love story that gives hope to those who have never loved.

By Kate Herbert

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