Fringe Box



Stage Dragon Review: Shadowlands – CS Lewis Inconveniently Falls In Love

Published on: 23 Feb, 2016
Updated on: 23 Feb, 2016

This is the story of CS Lewis confronted with love late in his life.

He said that this earthly life is only a shadowland and that real life begins after death.

This tale is not in any shadows. I think that CS Lewis would have revisited this theory after falling in love with Joy. I am left in no doubt as to his love and passion as I sit here in tears writing my review and I know I was not on my own to be touched by this five star play.

Shadowlands Amanda Ryan Shannon Rewcroft Denis Lill and Stephen Boxer CREDIT Jack Ladenburg

Joy (Amanda Ryan) and her son (Shannon Rewcroft), his brother, Warnie (Denis Lill) and CS Lewis (Stephen Boxer) meet for the first time. Photo by Jack Ladenburg.

CS Lewis is predominantly renowned for The Chronicles of Narnia, a tale of theology and God. He was quite sure of where he stood on such things and had a sound theoretical knowledge of love but then he met it face to face in the guise of Joy Davidman, an American poet.

Lewis was an Oxford don, comfortable with his existence and then, Joy. This caused Lewis to ask many questions of himself and his beliefs. What a lovely story, based in fact and very poignant.

Shadowlands, which is at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre until, Saturday, February 27, opens with a scholarly discussion about religion between Lewis and his friends and next moves into his settled home life with his brother, Warnie. A nice comfortable existence is portrayed with plenty of intellectual debate and humour.

Then Lewis meets Joy Davidman, an American lady, married with a son. He is completed bowled over despite his friends making it clear they do not like her. Joy’s intellect and plain speaking touches ‘Jack’ unlike anything else he has experienced.

They become strong friends and get married in a registry office in order to ensure citizenship for Joy. This is a ‘technical’ marriage not a real marriage. Jack has no conscience about it as he not really married in God’s eyes and as a good friend he is doing what he can to help Joy.

Soon after, Joy collapses and is diagnosed with advanced cancer. It is at this stage that Jack realises he loves Joy. Joy, of course, knew that all along.

Shadowlands Stephen Boxer and Amanda Ryan CREDIT Jack Ladenburg

Stephen Boxer as CS Lewis and Amanda Ryan as Joy Davidman as Joy is diagnosed with cancer. Photos by Jack Ladenburg.

Jack manages to rationalise his faith with marriage to a divorced woman and they are married by a priest while Joy is still in hospital and very ill.

The whole play is acted well and I don’t know who I would give the most credit to. Would it be: Stephen Boxer as Jack (CS Lewis), Amanda Ryan as Joy, Denis Lill as Warnie, Simon Shackleton as Christopher, Alastair Whatley – director or even William Nicholson as the writer. The stage set is minimalist but highly effective.

The whole combination worked for me. The story was brilliantly told, intellectually stimulating, humerous and naturally it was sad. Inevitably, highly emotional too. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening.

Star rating 5

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