Shadowlands

Date 4th October 2023
Society Wick Theatre Company
Venue The Barn Theatre, Southwick
Type of Production Play
Director Susanne Crosby

Report

Author: Kay Rowan

Shadowlands – is a play by William Nicholson adapted from his 1985 television film of the same name. The play is about the relationship betweenOxford don and author C.S.Lewisand the American writerJoy Gresham.  The story follows Lewis as he meets an American fan, Joy, whom he befriends and eventually marries. The story also focuses on his relationship with his brother,  Warren Lewis and deals with his personal struggle: Lewis preaches that one should endure suffering with patience, but finds that the simple answers he had preached no longer apply when Joy becomes afflicted with cancer and eventually dies.

The staging was very impressive with superb use of projection to create the scene changes.  The opening of the Narnia style door audibly impressed the audience.  The very simple arrangement of flats was suitably enhanced by the cast wheeling on furniture as required.  Done with such panache it was obviously very well-rehearsed.

The director, Susanne Crosby, is to be heartily congratulated upon her painstaking efforts to fully embrace the authenticity of the episodes of the production.  Her attention to detail was evident in every aspect of the play.  The cast were word perfect with no hint of hesitation.  Particularly commendable was the portrayal of C.S. Lewis by Bob Ryder – he maintained the character and tone throughout the play and most precisely during the long soliloquies.  Not only did he maintain the vocal tone but his mannerisms were spot on.  Bob was ably supported by Mike Wells, as Warren Lewis the brother who shared “Jack’s” house, in a suitably effective and understated way.  Lewis’s academic colleagues had individually crafted personalities which they each maintained throughout and created such a comfortable group of academic gentlemen that the audience were thoroughly drawn in. It is never easy to portray a young teenager however Zac Emerson impressively immersed himself in the role of Douglas, the son of Joy Gresham.  Lauren Brakes very ably undertook her many roles in a smooth and calm manner.  The role of the American author, Joy Gresham, was portrayed by Nicola Russell whose poise and delivery made a direct contrast to that of the character of C.S. Lewis.  She developed confidence during the play and was able to make the final scenes very authentic.  The most impressive aspect of this production was the evidence that the cast had become a real ‘team’ and supported each other both physically and emotionally during what is a very difficult theme.

The interplay of Christian values of faith and doubt are sorely tried during the protracted death of a loved one enacted during this play.  The theme was very well handled and certainly the audience were very convinced of the feelings displayed on stage. 

Sincere congratulations to all involved in this thought-provoking performance.