Of Wardrobes & Rings
Greenside @ Nicholson Sq
Aug 16-20 (18:30)
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
David Payne is becoming rather famous for being another man – the 20th century literary heavyweight, CS Lewis. He is already doing one reflective piece on the life of Lewis at this year’s Fringe, but is also sandwiching this little baby into the middle of proceedings. The scene is Oxford, 1963, & we are witness to the singing swan of a life-long friendship between the two progenitors of the fantasy genre – Lewis & Tolkien – played in a fatherly fashion by David Robinson. What follows is a brisk survey of Jack & Tollers years together, romantic reminiscences from their youth flow into sabre-rattling regrets from their decisions in later life, such as Tolkien’s Catholic rejection of Lewis’ divorcee wife. The tone is best exemplified by, when at one point, Tolkien ruminates on how he did not work hard enough on getting Lewis the poetry chair at Oxford, to which Lewis remarks that his friend was, ‘The Lord of the Strings.’ That Lewis never got the chair is no great loss to the establishment (I’ve read his poetry) but what we do learn – if Payne’s performance is to be believed – is that when Lewis died, he was a loss to humanity & to one human in particular.
The two parts are perfectly cast – especially when Tolkien’s brooding brow battles with Lewis’ angelic countenance while they discuss the nuances of creating their fledgling fantasy genre. They share sparkling & serene conversation, punctuated occasionally by Meg Ellisor’s Hatty, a young American lady who brings in the tea like the chorus at the altars of a Pindaric ode. The entire play is something of a confessional by Tolkien, who is really the central figure in the play, & an excellent paced & poised one too. They are only doing the play this middle week, so I urge any lover of both theatre & said literary giants to catch ‘Of Wardrobes & Rings,’ before it is too late.
Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen