Presented by St Jude's Players.
Reviewed Thursday 4th August 2011

Location: St Jude's Hall 444 Brighton Rd, Brighton
Season: August 4th-6th, and 9th -13th August 2011 8pm, Saturday matinees at 2pm
Duration: 2hrs 15min
Tickets: Adults $19/conc $15/children under 13 $7/groups 15+ $15

English author C.S. Lewis is best known for writing the magical Chronicles of Narnia series which has been loved by children around the world for almost 60 years. Shadowlands, written by William Nicholson and directed by Vicky Horwood, takes us into C.S. Lewis’s life, behind the stories of fantasy fiction, and into the the very moving and personal story of his befriending, then falling in love with American writer and poet, Joy Gresham.

Shadowlands is set in Oxford in the 1950’s where Joy, played by Bronwyn Ruciak, finally meets Lewis, after a period of letter writing between the two. Joy, with her drawling New York accent and fashion, draws you right into the era and is in sharp contrast to Lewis’s reserved English nature. She is intelligent, forthright and strong and Bronwyn Ruciak does a wonderful job in bringing her to life. She is accompanied always by her son Douglas, who acts as link back to Lewis’s childhood at times. Karl McAllister did a good job in his role as Douglas, often needing to be seen but not heard.

Lewis is played by Brian Knott, who is terrific in the role, and manages to transform Lewis from a man surrounded by Oxford academia, and in a comfortable life routine, into a person who is able risk intense pain to discover deep and true love. His brother, Major W H Lewis or 'Warnie'  lives with him in an old house, and their lives are quiet and set in routine. Warnie is played well by David Rapkin and he is by his brother's side through it all. It is only once Joy becomes ill with bone cancer, that Lewis relaises the full extent of his feelings towards her. What follows is a beautiful and emotional journey.

Lewis’ fellow academics at Oxford University are his friends and support. They are cynical, quick witted and don’t mind a wine or two. Andrew Horwood played Professor Christopher Riley and was a standout this role.

The lighting and sound were effective and the set was layered with different scenes, cleverly manipulated and transformed. The feature was the large wardrobe similar to that found in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, opening up to a large tree with illuminated red apples.

Shadowlands shows us that with great love comes great pain, but that is life. Definitely worth checking out.

Reviewed by Kathryn Noble, Performing Arts Critic, Glam Adelaide.

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