Shadowlands

Shadowlands
By William Nicholson. Directed by Helen Ekundayo. Presented by Villanova Players. The Ron Hurley Theatre. 8 - 23 June, 2019

This philosophical work covers a short span in the life of author and theologian C.S. Lewis. Set in 1950s Oxford, we see the conservative and chaste Christian man Lewis’ unlikely romance with an American Jewish divorcee and fellow writer, Joy Davidman. They have a keen, intellectual bond, but set-in-his-ways bachelor Lewis is too inexperienced with the fairer sex to take the relationship past friendship.

The unexpected, blossoming romance and Joy’s failing health become further impetus for the author to question his faith, change his views on marriage, and consider the purpose of suffering, the existence of an afterlife, the soul and whether or not God is listening to our prayers.

The play is very verbose and thought-provoking and won’t appeal to those who like an action-packed narrative. Instead, pacing is slow, with ample use of long pauses during which you can contemplate the bigger themes. It appears the pausing is in part due to actors still working to remember lines and skilfully hiding their memory lapses with thoughtful facial expressions and meaningful glances.

Garry Condoseres as C.S. ‘Jack’ Lewis’ has the lion’s share of dialogue to recall. He’s very thoughtful in his portrayal and believable as a straitlaced academic. Lucy Moxon retains the American accent throughout her depiction of Joy Davidman. Her emotional interpretation throughout Joy’s fight with bone cancer is rather touching. Supporting cast all show commitment and focus in their roles.

Direction by Helen Ekundayo is well thought-out and balanced. There are some lovely tableaus created in her blocking of the cast. Lucy Moxon’s set and props are beautifully realised. There’s a keen attention to detail in capturing the furnishings and style of the era. Lighting design by Rod Thompson is particularly effective during the scene in which Lewis discusses his partner’s deteriorating health with his closest friends as she lies prone in her hospital bed. It helps to keep the audience focus on the scene’s dialogue.  

Shadowlands is fascinating for anyone asking themselves the big questions or for fans of Lewis’ works.

Kiesten McCauley 

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