Questioning Aslan, a production by Searchlight Theatre Company, opens to us an evening with C.S. Lewis (played by David Robinson) and a fictional Oxford pupil of his, James Teller (Michael Taylor), charting a number of their tutorials. This intellectual and well-acted piece moves through anecdotes from C.S. Lewis’ life, references to his better known works (including The Chronicles of Narnia) and his apologetics and forms a well-informed, honest and unassuming dialogue between doubt and faith. Although not sit-back entertainment, this play is enjoyably and accessibly mentally stimulating.
The production’s set is quite lavish: wooden-panelled flats, a desk and chairs, fireplace and paintings - including a centrally placed portrait of Aslan - create the sense of C.S. Lewis’s office as a professor at Oxford University. The room is littered with books, as is appropriate for the numerous literary references in the play as well as the learned nature of Lewis himself. In addition, sound and lighting was used simply but to great effect in scene craft.
However, the acting in Questioning Aslan was its strongest feature. The contrast between the intellectual, challenging and mildly eccentric Lewis and his sceptical and argumentative pupil is delightfully and dynamically executed. Both Robinson and Taylor conveyed their characters with subtlety and credibility, nuanced with moments of comedy and tenderness and featuring a stunning rendition of Ave Maria from Taylor and a captivating monologue from Robinson.
Although slow at times due to the subject matter and tarnished by a slightly melodramatic ending, the play is simple and elegant and succeeds in not being too preachy or over-forcing the point. Thought-provoking, well-written and well-performed, Questioning Aslan is an intriguing an open discussion about doubt and faith. Regardless of your beliefs this is a bright and beautifully constructed piece of theatre.