Set in Oxford in the 1950s, Shadowlands tells the true love story of CS Lewis (Dance) and Joy Gresham (Dee). Lewis, a leading Christian academic and author of many classic books including The Chronicles of Narnia, remained a bachelor until his fifties, when he met Joy. Enchanted by the American divorcee, he secretly married her and cared for her when she became terminally ill. His encounter with love and loss led him to reconsider many of the beliefs he had previously held so staunchly.
Nicholson adapted his play – which won the Evening Standard Award for Play of the Year and was nominated for three Oliviers - for a 1993 film which starred Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger and was directed by Richard Attenborough.
For the pre-Christmas reading at the Comedy Theatre (See News, 28 Nov 2006), organised by Dee as a fundraiser for the Nepalese school-building charity, the Pahar Trust, Dance and Dee were directed by Jeremy Sams, in whose production of Donkeys’ Years Dee was then appearing at the same address.
Janie Dee’s other play credits include Between the Lines, Design for Living, Betrayal, Much Ado About Nothing and, in 2000, Alan Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential, for which she won Best Actress accolades at the Laurence Olivier, Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards before the comedy’s New York transfer. She’s also well known for her musical credits, which include Cats, Carousel (for which she won her first Olivier), My One and Only, Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, South Pacific and, last year in the West End with David Soul, Mack and Mabel.
Aside from the rehearsed reading, Charles Dance’s most recent London stage credits include Good at the Donmar Warehouse and Long Day’s Journey into Night in the West End as well as the 2006 rehearsed reading of Harold Pinter’s Celebration in honour of the playwright’s Nobel Prize win. Dance is best known internationally for his screen credits such as Jewel in the Crown, Bleak House, To the Ends of the Earth, Plenty, White Mischief and Gosford Park. He was an appointed an OBE last year (See News, 19 Jun 2006).
Dee and Dance are joined in Shadowlands by John Standing, whose previous West End credits include A Delicate Balance, A Month in the Country, The Importance of Being Earnest and Private Lives with Maggie Smith. His screen credits include The Eagle Has Landed, Walk Don’t Run, Mrs Dalloway and V for Vendetta on film, and television’s King Solomon’s Mines, The Gathering Storm, A Dance to the Music of Time, Murder She Wrote and LA Law. Also in the company are Richard Durden and Graham Padden.
The new production of Shadowlands is directed by Michael Barker-Caven and designed by Matthew Wright, with lighting by Peter Mumford. Prior to the West End, it will open on 5 September 2007 at Cambridge’s Arts Theatre and will then visit Milton Keynes and Richmond. It’s presented by Brian Eastman and Andrew Welch as the first offering out of the stable of Richmond Theatre Productions.
This past weekend at Wyndham’s Theatre, Alan Strachan’s revival of Somerset Maugham’s 1927 play The Letter, starring Jenny Seagrove and Anthony Andrews, finished its limited season. It’s followed by American legend Chita Rivera’s two weeks of cabaret, Chita Sings from 10 to 23 September (See News, 27 Jul 2007). After Shadowlands, the National Theatre’s multi award-winning production of Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys will return from 20 December (See News, 9 Aug 2007).
- by Terri Paddock