shadowlandsWyndham's Theatrelondon HHH
As well as being the creator of the Narnia stories, CS Lewis was a professor of English literature and a combative Christian apologist. At the start of William Nicholson's moving play Shadowlands, this bachelor don delivers a lecture to the audience on the meaning and value of pain. "Pain," he argues, "is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world." Rouse it from what? Answer: the deluded dream of self-sufficiency in an existence where all is apparently well.
Lewis's imagery suggests that human beings are the raw materials of the deity's projected art work. The hammer blows of fate, he contends, thumping fist on hand, are simply the strokes of the Sculptor's mallet bashing us into perfect shape.
At the beginning of the second half, Lewis repeats this talk, but the robust conviction that had informed it first time round sounds as if it is beginning to crumble. Suppressed tears seem to be dragging the lines from their rectilinear certainty. His manner trembles on the tremulous. This is because of the momentous change that has happened in the interim.
Behind him, there are hospital screens. Behind them, writhing in the agony of bone cancer, lies Joy Davidman, the Jewish-American who fell for him through reading his books and letters, infiltrated his life (he was in more than one sense "surprised by Joy") and reawoke in him a capacity for love and vulnerability that had been in moth- balled abeyance since the cruel death of his mother (also from cancer) when he was eight.
Life might seem to be imitating the Goodbye Mr Chips formula: repressed middle-aged academic brought to late-flowering bloom by an extraordinary woman who is then untimely wrested from him. But the female in this type of scenario is usually a blatant contrast to the man: instinct complementing intellect. In the case of Lewis and Davidman, though, the gratifying twist is that she is a very sharp thinker, too. There's a lovely scene where she unearths the buried assumptions in one of Lewis's obiter dicta, and …