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New Era - Shadowlands

8th to 18th September 2004.

Here is the NWN review.

Pain and prejudice amid the college cloisters

New Era Players: Shadowlands, at The New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Wednesday, September 8 to Saturday, September 18

Shadowlands was a challenging choice for New Era Players.

William Nicholson's poignant play begins with a lecture from the timid, middle-aged C.S. Lewis, sensitively played by Tim Oldham.

During his lecture he asks the question of why God allows suffering and this is a recurring theme throughout the play.

The episodic story traces the relationship between Lewis and an American divorcee, Joy Davidman, strongly portrayed by Nancy Jane Danks.

She has been writing letters to the famous author of the Narnia stories and eventually visits Lewis in Oxford, and a friendship develops altering the comfortable, stable bachelor existence of Lewis and his brother, Warnie (Nigel Winter) for ever.

In order that Davidman and her polite, well-behaved son (Alexander Greenwood) can stay in England Lewis marries her in a register office but it has to be kept a secret.

Soon afterwards we learn that she has developed cancer and Lewis realises that he has truly fallen in love with her.

She has four years of remission during which time they holiday in Greece. The first time that Lewis has been abroad and life is blissfully happy.

It is not to last for long as Joy is re-admitted to hospital and her slow terminal and painful illness returns.

They are married again by a vicar, confirming the deep love they have for each other, but Joy dies.

She leaves a gaping hole in the emotions of Lewis. "Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world," he cries. "Our true good lies in another world, the one we inhabit is no more than the Shadowlands."

Director, Anne Oldham had a talented cast to work with. The pairing of Oldham and Winter as the two brothers was a joy to watch.

They were totally convincing, supporting each other, fussing over household chores and adjusting to their changing relationships.

Danks perfectly captured the pushy American who eventually finds happiness only to lose it by a long lingering death.

The supporting actors playing the various Dons created the atmosphere and prejudices of the cloistered colleges of Oxford in the 1950s which was reflected in the simple stage design.

This was a moving and thought-provoking evening.