Shadowlands at Ipswich
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
American breezes blow away English cobwebs in William Nicholson’s play.
As in 84 Charing Cross Road, a voluble New York woman ignites a stuffy Englishman.
Shadowlands describes a late-flowering but doomed romance between tweedy writer C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham, 17 years his junior.
Looking at their pictures, they were an unlikely loving couple. He was bald, rotund and not a snappy dresser. She was a little bespectacled Jewish woman.
But the actors get handsomer and the girls prettier, so that the original characters are diluted.
Stephen Boxer is slighter than Lewis, better looking and with more dress sense. Amanda Ryan is so attractive that any man would fall for her. The casting blurs the reality.
Needless to say the acting is perfectly fine, in a play that never fails to raise a tear. Set in 1950s Oxford, it has the air of a requiem mass, sung by a college choir.
It is directed by Alastair Whatley for Birdsong Productions in association with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.