Credit: Jack Ladenburg

★★★★★ – So emotional, I couldn’t help but cry.

Amanda Ryan as Joy Davidman and Stephen Boxer as C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands. Credit Jack Ladenburg

Credit: Jack Ladenburg

Last night was one of those nights where you sit there, and for the whole of the two hours you felt so lucky to be a theatre reviewer. I didn’t think theatre could touch a person that deep, in the way that William Nicholson’s Shadowlands undoubtedly did.

“Shadowlands is based on events that occurred in the lives of two real people – C.S Lewis and Joy (Davidman) Gresham (…) I have used parts of their story, not used other parts, and imagined the rest.” – William Nicholson.

‘Jack’ Lewis and Joy Davidman were played by Stephen Boxer and Amanda Ryan respectively, and I will never see the two actors as themselves again. C.S Lewis and Joy were resurrected and put on stage for the audience of the 21st Century to see the marvel that his world was, and the imagination he had, through William Nicholson’s own genius take on Chronicles of Narnia legend’s life. The portrayal was too surreal to be called acting. For a week only, the two lives come alive and let us in to see the lives that lived in and around C.S Lewis’.

 

Credit: Jack LadenburgCredit: Jack Ladenburg     

The formidable writing of Nicholson astonishingly captivates C.S Lewis and you were reminded of Narnia, as the story was told. I particularly adored the moment in which Lewis sparked the notion of magic with young Douglas, who wanted to believe in it so bad. Having seen The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at Christmas at the Birmingham Rep, I was gleefully pleased to see some features used for this. It made the experience so much more magical.

It is rare not to be able to control your lacrimal glands in public, but this story pushed them out of you whether you liked it or not. And I wasn’t the only one, with sniffles and other crying-like noises surrounding me, the whole theatre could not help but give in to the emotions of the heart-breaking story. One couple were so engrossed that were constantly saying: “Oh dear” as the action darkened.

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The subliminal acting, combined with almost too-good-to-be-true storytelling by William Nicholson evoked emotions that could not help but escape the depths of the human soul. “The happiness now, is part of the pain then.” Said Joy when she was on holiday with Jack, as the dreaded end was near, which touched so many people.

Other acting, from Denis Lill (Warnie), Simon Shackleton (Prf Christopher Riley) and all the others contributed to the fullness of the play, and created exquisite drama which helped bring to life the man who made so many of our childhoods magical and filled with wonder.

 

Shadowlands plays at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre until 4 June.

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