The set-up is simple: an armchair, a side-table, and a teapot, cup, and saucer. As it should be,
Payne conveys the quiet dignity and gravitas of this man of intellect with serene assuredness.
In a pleasingly acknowledged example of paying attention to detail, the character/audience relationship is framed as C. S. Lewis (we are encouraged to refer to him as Jack) welcoming a party of American visitors to his home. This simple conceit provides a sense of purpose sometimes missing from such one-performer shows. With this established, we settle into a series of opening anecdotes which pique the curiosity of literature lovers as we try to work out which renowned writer Lewis is referring to – the gentle suspense built in this way maintains strong early interest. Naturally, there is humour a-plenty too, with Lewis’s occasional bursts of comic verse providing highlights.
As is so important in a production of this sort, we are allowed access to the deeper life of a man who is far more complex than many, who solely know Lewis as the author of the Narnia books, would realise. His shift from discussions on writing and literature, to his evolving views on religion, reveal Lewis to be not only a clearly creative and imaginative man, but one whose propensity for deep thought informed and guided his work throughout his life. Payne conveys the quiet dignity and gravitas of this man of intellect with serene assuredness.
This show is more than simply a predictably repetitive collection of frothy tales and has, as its emotional heart, Lewis’s reminiscences of his cherished friend from America, his experiences with whom became the major part of his later life. Suffice to say, the tenderness and thoughtfulness with which Payne presents this part of his narrative is wholly successful in communicating Lewis’s feelings towards her. A comfortable and warming experience, An Evening with C. S. Lewis is certainly one to enjoy at the Fringe this year.