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 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 Broadway. 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.
The new production, the first out of the stable of Richmond Theatre Productions, is directed by Michael Barker-Caven and designed by Matthew Wright. The cast also features John Standing, Richard Durden and Graham Padden.
First night critics seemed well and truly enchanted by this “powerful” revival of Nicholson’s thoughtful tearjerker, thanks largely to the lead actors. More than review described Charles Dance as a “revelation” in the role of CS Lewis, and none failed to be moved by his “beautifully quiet, understated performance”. Equally impressive as the object of his affections was Janie Dee. In the critics’ minds, the high quality performances are enhanced in Michael Barker-Caven's “adroit” production by Matthew Wright’s “efficient” and “expressionistic” design which gives the audience glimpses of Narnia, the world created by Lewis.
- by Tom Atkins