Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Religious vows around a hospital bed from Martin Bourne as C S Lewis, Carolyn Young as Joy and Keith Finch as the friendly priest agreeing to officiate at the marriage of a divorced woman


Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


There are times in theatre when the term amateur means nothing more than the actors receive no remuneration save the satisfaction of a job well done.

In all other respects this is a production that would not look out of place on the professional stage in the telling of a few short years in the 1950s in the complex life of the Belfast born author and academic Clive Staples Lewis.

C S Lewis, a close friend of J R R Tolkien, is best known for his fantasy books, The Chronicles of Narnia, but he was a respected academic at Oxford and later Cambridge, an expert on mediaeval and renaissance literature, and one of the leading Christian apologists of the modern era.

His life was simple on an intellectual level, a career progression in academia, but complex on a personal level. After World War I he looked after Jane Moore, the mother of Paddy, a fellow officer cadet – his own mother had died when he was eight and his father was a distant eccentric - after a pact that if either were killed the survivor would look after both families. Paddy died in action in 1918 and Lewis dutifully looked after Jane until she died suffering from dementia in a nursing home in 1951, with many who knew them believing they had also been lovers.


Martin Bourne as C S Lewis

William Nicholson’s play chronicles his doomed relationship with Jewish American author, former communist and atheist and now committed Christian, Joy Davidman. The pair first met when Davidman, who had been corresponding with Lewis on an intellectual level, came to England in 1952.

The play opens with Lewis giving one of his regular lectures explaining his views of God, love, pain and suffering. Martin Bourne is superb as the slightly unworldly Lewis, never flustered, taking all in his intellectual stride, until the death of Joy makes him question the easy answers he had about God and love.

Lewis lives at the family home, The Kilns, with brother Warren, Warnie, with another splendid performance, this time by John Horton as the major (retired), who had his own academic career with seven historical books on the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King.

They are members of a group of academic friends who meet regularly, a group which includes Dr Christopher Riley, played wonderfully with an acerbic wit by Paul Bellamy, the more serious man of God, the Rev Harry Harrington, played with pious reflection by John Lines and doubling up we have Jamie Szikora-Warmington as Alan Gregg and Joy’s doctor and Keith Finch as both Dr Maurice Oakley and the Priest who eventually marries Lewis and divorcee Joy.

Into this comfortable, unchanging life enters, like a whirlwind, Joy, with son Douglas, (Harry Haynes on Press night and Saturday, Barney Green on other nights). The former child prodigy is not only outspoken but she can take on the likes of Christopher in intellectual sparing and more than hold her own.


John Lines as the Rev Harry Harrington and John Horton as Major Lewis, Warnie

Carolyn Young is excellent as Joy, fresh as a daisy amid the dusty, staid group of middle aged academics. Her American accent is consistent, which always helps to bring a character to life, and she is convincing as the confident New Yorker who we see first as a curiosity, then as a friend and finally as a wife (twice) in the slowly growing relationship – slow mainly because Lewis, clever as he might be, couldn’t see or understand he was one half of a love affair. Joy’s love for Lewis and sadness that he cannot see it or seemingly respond, is beautifully controlled.

There is good support also from Shyrah Barnes as the nurse, caring for the dying Joy, Sally Metcalf as the waitress and Frank Welbourne as the registrar at the pair’s first wedding – a technical affair for UK residency. The second marriage was for love and made in the eyes of God.

Ultimately it is a sad love story, ending, as it started, with a lecture by Lewis, this time questioning his own easy answers to his belief.

After Joy’s death in 1960, aged just 45, Lewis wrote A Grief Observed under the pseudonym N W Clerk about his relationship, his pain at bereavement, and anger towards God; it was in turn to be the inspiration for Shadowlands.

Peter and Chris Read have done a fine job with the set which gives us The Kilns, a college dining hall, registry office, hospital ward, Joy’s home and an Oxford tea room all at the sweep of a curtain; and full marks to the backstage crew who managed fast, silent scene changes – and cleared an accidentally dropped piece of cake – with no fuss.

Andrew Dunkley’s lighting and Steve Willis’s sound, with Daniel Vickers’ music, all combined to add to the atmosphere which along with set and costumes (Joanna Crow) caught the era of the 1950s beautifully.

Director Tim Crow cleverly balanced front of curtain scenes with scene changes behind and maintained a natural, gentle pace which saw time fly by watching an enjoyable and satisfying production. To 27-10-18

Roger Clarke


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