Sometimes the finest forms of theatre are simple, the weighted power in spoken word alone is enough to form a connection. Stripped bare the stage reflects the iconic image of Lewis; an armchair with a pot of tea awaiting this evening’s presenter. One of literature’s finest; CS Lewis plays host to a gathering of American writers, played ever so skillfully by tonight’s audience. Produced and toured by an American company, but carried out in a manner to keep us rooted in the small English cottage of CS and Warren Lewis.
The narrative is biographical and meticulous in detail but never crosses into the doldrums. An Evening with CS Lewis never leads by the hand and compliments the audience’s intelligence, even those not familiar with the author behind the prose. What could easily feel like an English lit lecture is instead an enthralling production, carried by David Payne as Lewis. Payne savours this role, performing it with clearly evident gusto. This isn’t simply someone imitating Lewis, but a talented person of their craft becoming Lewis. And rather like the pot of tea sat casually to brew, so does the story. Starting calmly with a jovial conversation with the ‘students’ but allowed to simmer and eventually develop into an emotionally driven piece.
Comedy too rears its bemused face. Payne’s timing and exaggerated faces fit an accomplished script. A script which evolves and entices the audience just as keenly as any of the respected man’s works. From Lewis’ time at Oxford, pub meetings with J.R.R Tolkien and through to the American woman who would reconstruct his life.
CS Lewis gifted the world with much, together with the other Inklings his contributions to the world of literature helped place British fantasy and theology where it stands today. David Payne’s talents present another gift, this time to Edinburgh from across the pond.