Review: Shadowlands, New Wolsey

Most people will be familiar with C.S. Lewis through The Chronicles of Narnia books, but many will not be familiar with the man behind the books.

Lewis was a British novelist, poet and academic at Oxford University, seemingly content with his life amongst the dons and writing, sharing his home with his brother. Sometime in his later life he began a correspondence with a fan, Joy Davidman Gresham, herself an American writer. Eventually Joy visits England with her young son and Lewis and Joy meet.

Lewis later said that she was probably the only woman who could intellectually challenge him and it was this ability that initially strengthened their relationship.

Through a series of events, they marry, for convenience sake, but slowly love grew until their lives are thrown into upheaval as tragedy strikes and Lewis questions his beliefs.

The story of Lewis and Joy was turned into a stage play written by William Nicholson, TV adaptations followed but most famously the story was turned into a film directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Anthony Hopkins.

The Attenborough production is one of this reviewer’s favourite movies and therefore the production by Birdsong Productions, currently playing at The New Wolsey in Ipswich, was in my mind up against tough competition from the start!

Stephen Boxer plays Lewis superbly, a gentle and thoughtful man, a man who maybe is scared of commitment or even the female sex. Amanda Ryan as Joy in contrast exudes a brash tough New York exterior, but at the same time you feel a woman who wants to be cared for. They are chalk and cheese but opposites do sometimes attract.

This is an excellent production and cast, Denis Lill as Warnie (Lewis’ brother) puts in a very noteworthy supporting role and Shannon Rewcroft play Joy’s son Douglas very convincingly.

As stated previously I was concerned that my mind would be overshadowed by memories of the Attenborough movie…. these fears were totally unfounded as this stage production of Shadowlands is in a class of it’s own and will have you smiling and crying as well as, maybe, questioning life.

Highly recommended Shadowlands is at the New Wolsey, Ipswich until Saturday 19th March (and then on national tour until July).

Box office 01473 295900

— Mark Keable, Ipswich24 Magazine —