- April 8, 2019
SHADOWLANDS Hugh Bonneville is C.S. Lewis in William Nicholson’s award winning play at Chichester Festival Theatre The extraordinary and moving love story of ‘Narnia’ writer C.S. Lewis is told in the award-winning play Shadowlands by
William Nicholson, which runs at Chichester Festival Theatre from 26 April – 25 May.
Hugh Bonneville, whose many television and film appearances include Downton Abbey, W1A and Paddington, plays C.S. Lewis, who was one of the most influential writers of his day and is still best known for his children’s classics The Chronicles of Narnia which have been widely adapted for stage, screen and radio. ‘William Nicholson’s contribution to the script of the movie Gladiator and his more recent screenplay, Breathe, were both deeply affecting (I appeared in the latter, so perhaps I’m biased)’, says Hugh. ‘He writes about love and suffering with extraordinary insight and compassion. So his exploration of the life of sheltered, certain C.S. Lewis being disrupted by such powerful forces is a story I can’t wait to tell.’ Joy Gresham, the New York poet with whom Lewis fell in love, will be played by Liz White, a familiar face from TV series like Life on Mars, Ackley Bridge and The Halcyon. ‘I saw the film of Shadowlands years ago,’ Liz says. ‘Joy is immediately striking. Not least because in a room surrounded by men, in 1952 she asserts herself as an equal. I admired her directness and her wit.’
It was in 1952 that C.S. ‘Jack’ Lewis first met Joy Gresham.They became close friends and when Joy’s husband requested a divorce, Lewis agreed to enter into a civil marriage so that she and her two sons could remain in the UK. In 1956 Joy was diagnosed with cancer and the relationship between her and Lewis deepened. His subsequent, widely admired memoir of love and loss, A Grief Observed, was so deeply raw and personal that it was published under a pseudonym and his authorship revealed only after his death in 1963.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is still one of the bestloved books of all time and The Times ranked him eleventh on their list of ‘The 50 Greatest British Writers since 1945’. In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of his death, a memorial to Lewis was installed in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.
Shadowlands runs at Chichester Festival Theatre
until 25 May with tickets from £10;