Like the love which forms the heart of Shadowlands, the stage adaptation of William Nicholson’s story is a many splendoured thing.
An atmosphere of cloistered academia in Oxford is created by a cavernous wood-panelled room with arched windows in which university dons dispense highbrow lectures on theology and engage in discourse on women.
That is until a mouthy, opinionated American comes along to prise one of the members away from his elite gentlemen’s club and eventually makes him question his faith in God.
A more riveting play would be hard to find than this week’s production at Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre.
Stephen Boxer gives a masterclass in acting as the bachelor author C.S. Lewis who finds love late in life. He’s barely off stage for a minute and captivates the audience with his well-judged characterisation and finely-tuned delivery.
Amanda Ryan is well-matched in the role of sparky Joy Gresham, an American penpal of Lewis who melts his heart. Hers is a performance generating laughter and tears, from Joy’s unpopular retorts to Lewis’s colleagues to the wit she shows in a vain fight against cancer.
Fantasy and reality collide in a magical scene in which Joy’s son (played by Shannon Rewcroft) disappears through a window to pluck a golden apple from an illuminated tree for his dying mum, mirroring the author’s novel The Magician’s Nephew.
Denis Lill plays Lewis’s brother Warniewho offers comfort in the darkest hours and humour in happier times.
Go and see this first-class play… you’ll wish the magic would never end.