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.
The original 1990 West End production starred Nigel Hawthorne and Jane Lapotaire and transferred to Broaway. Nicholson adapted his play – which won the Evening Standard Award for Play of the Year and was nominated for three Oliviers and the Tony for Best Play - for a 1993 film which starred Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger and was directed by Richard Attenborough.
Dance and Dee previously performed the piece as a pre-Christmas rehearsed reading at the West End’s Comedy Theatre (See News, 28 Nov 2006), organised by Dee (who was then appearing at the theatre in Donkeys’ Years) as a fundraiser for the Nepalese school-building charity, the Pahar Trust.
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 (as Professor Christopher Riley), 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 cast are Richard Durden, Graham Padden, Alan Gregg, Osmund Bullock, Christian and Jonah Lees, Adam Megginson, Naomi Paxton and Sioned Jones.
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, Malvern and Richmond. It’s presented by Brian Eastman and Andrew Welch as the first offering out of the stable of Richmond Theatre Productions.
- by Terri Paddock