Solo show in Chichester reveals the man behind the Narnia Chronicles

David Payne as C.S. Lewis
David Payne as C.S. Lewis
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A Christmas with C.S. Lewis brings David Payne to Chichester for a one-man show in St John’s Chapel on Wednesday, December 9.

Seated in his living room and in front of a warm fire on a December evening, C.S. Lewis recalls the people and events that inspired his thought and shaped his life; he looks back on his friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien, reminisces about why he nearly abandoned the Narnia Chronicles, and he talks about how he came to embrace Christianity.

He will also talk about the American woman who turned his life upside down – a tale so memorably told in the film/play Shadowlands.

As David says, the first half could be called A Man called Jack (Jack being Lewis’ nickname); the second half could be called A Woman called Joy, his tragic wife.

“She had cancer when he married her. It is a very touching story, but being Lewis, the whole thing is also quite humorous. The play has lots of laughter in it. Most people are quite surprised how much they have laughed when they come away, but that’s the way Lewis was.

“He talks about his friendship with Tokien. They were great friends.

“It’s all just anecdotal. It’s a fireside chat. It answers the kinds of questions you would want to ask if you actually had the chance to meet C S Lewis.

“It is not so much the intellectual that comes through – though of course he was, though here he is not setting out to impress. What you get is more the man – the man behind the Narnia Chronicles, the man behind the academic books.”

The show goes back 15 years ago, but the interest goes back even further: “My wife and I went to Nashville on a two-year project in the early 1990s, and while I was there, I saw an advert saying that were was a theatrical company in downtown Nashville that was auditioning for Shadowlands and that a British accent would be a help.

“I thought ‘Well, I have got a British accent!’ But I hadn’t done any acting before. I said to them I didn’t know whether to come or not, but they said it was a community theatre and everyone was welcome. I went down there hoping to get a small part and ended up getting the lead.”

Even better, he was given a contact for Doug Gresham, son of Joy, Lewis’ wife.

“I got in contact with Doug, and he was very helpful. I talked to him, and he ended up coming along to our special gala event, and so for my first performance as C S Lewis, I had his actual stepson in the audience!”

It was the first step towards the current show.

Set in 1963, it shows us CS Lewis hosting a group of American writers at his home near Oxford.

They are about to experience a captivating evening with a man whose engaging conversation and spontaneous humour made him one of the great raconteurs of his day…

“It is lovely. People say coming away from the show, they feel they have met the real C. S. Lewis.”

Doors: 7pm; start: 7.45pm; finish: 9.45pm.

Click here for tickets.

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