Hugh Bonneville   Liz White


By William Nicholson

Festival Theatre
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A theatrical triumph

i Newspaper

A divine revival


Entertaining, funny, deeply touching

Daily Mail
Sunday Times
Evening Standard

Celebrated writer C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, splits his time between an ordered domestic routine at home with his brother, Warnie, and the academic rigour of his dispassionate, all-male Oxford college.

His evenings are spent replying to his many correspondents. One stands out: vivid, expressive, New York poet Joy Gresham.

When she arrives in England with her young son, Douglas, everything Lewis believed to be true about life and love is thrown into question. And a relationship begins which will take them both to the extremities of pain and joy.

William Nicholson’s much-loved play premiered in the West End in 1989, winning the Evening Standard Award for Best Play and being nominated for a Tony Award on its subsequent Broadway run. Originally a 1985 television drama, it became a feature film in 1993.

Hugh Bonneville returns to Chichester following his acclaimed performance in An Enemy of the People (2016). His many television and film appearances include Downton Abbey, W1A and Paddington.

Liz White makes her Chichester debut as Joy Gresham. Her many TV series include Life on Mars, Ackley Bridge and The Halcyon; theatre includes Electra (Old Vic), Port and A Woman Killed with Kindness (National Theatre).

Director Rachel Kavanaugh returns to Chichester where her many productions include Single Spies and Half A Sixpence (2016) and The Winslow Boy (2017).

Purchase a digital copy of the programme

Our programmes are designed to be the perfect insightful companion to the production. The Shadowlands programme includes various articles about the life and works of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman written by A.N. Wilson and Abigail Santamaria. In addition there is rehearsal photography, biographies, events and news from the Theatre.

By clicking on BUY you will be re-directed to Issuu's website. The purchased programme will be available to read on their website and app. 

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Prologue tickets available from 2 March


Emotional and captivating. Never has Bonneville owned a stage with such awesome humility. Simply put, this explosion of released love is a theatrical triumph

i Newspaper

Hugh Bonneville dazzles as C.S. Lewis in divine revival.


William Nicholson’s affecting modern classic sees a particular type of repressed Englishness blown apart by love and grief, as the writer CS Lewis falls for Joy Gresham, an American divorcée 17 years his junior.
These parts are absolute gifts for actors and they are impressively filled by Hugh Bonneville and, especially, Liz White.

Evening Standard

A wonderful new staging of William Nicholson's superb portrayal of C.S.Lewis’s latter years. Hugh Bonneville is marvellous in the role of the confirmed bachelor of 25-years. Liz White is tremendous in the role of Joy, her quick put-downs reducing Lewis' misogynist associates to quivering uncertainty. Director Rachel Kavanaugh extracts perfect timing from her cast and tears of laughter flow just as freely as tears of sorrow with the audience. Entertaining, funny, deeply touching.


Outstanding performances make Shadowlands a powerful, poignant treat. Hugh Bonneville and Liz White work together beautifully to offer a rich, compelling and superbly-acted performance in Rachel Kavanaugh’s assured production.

Chichester Observer

Bonneville embraces the role of the author of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe with the natural ease and elegance of one who has spent his entire life preparing for this single and singular performance.

West Sussex County Times

There’s cracking support from Andrew Havill as Lewis’ brother, Warnie. Timothy Watson as Professor Christopher Reilly is excellent. The set is beautiful and clever, referencing the Narnia books and even allowing us two brief trips to Lewis’ allegorical heaven.

Portsmouth News

Cast & Creatives


Cast List

Hugh Bonneville

C.S. Lewis

Liz White

Joy Gresham

Sally Cheng


Giles Coram

Dr Maurice Oakley

Emilio Doorgasingh

Rev. Harry Harrington

Ruari Finnegan


Lauren Hall


Andrew Havill

Major W.H. Lewis (Warnie)

Beruce Khan

Alan Gregg

Eddie Martin


Timothy Watson

Professor Christopher Riley

Creative team

Cast List

Rachel Kavanaugh


Peter McKintosh


Howard Harrison

Lighting Designer

Catherine Jayes


Fergus O’Hare

Sound Designer

Georgina Lamb

Movement Director

Charlotte Sutton

Casting Director



Q&A with Hugh Bonneville and Liz White

Q&A with Hugh Bonneville and Liz White

William Nicholson's Shadowlands opens in the Festival Theatre in April. We caught up with Hugh Bonneville who plays C.S. Lewis and Liz White who plays Joy Gresham to ask what attracted them to the piece and how they are preparing for their roles. 

Hugh Bonneville returns to Chichester following his acclaimed performance in An Enemy of the People (2016). His many television and film appearances include Downton Abbey, W1A and Paddington.

You play C.S. Lewis in this production. What was it about the subject matter and Lewis as a character that attracted you to the role?

William Nicholson’s contribution to the script of the movie Gladiator and his more recent screenplay, Breathe, were both deeply affecting (I appeared in the latter, so perhaps I’m biased). He writes about love and suffering with extraordinary insight and compassion. So his exploration of the life of sheltered, certain, C.S. Lewis being disrupted by such powerful forces is a story I can’t wait to tell.

How are you preparing for the role?
I grew up on The Chronicles of Narnia and when I studied Theology for A Level, The Screwtape Letters were a must-read… I’ve retrieved them from the attic and am dusting them off!

Many audience members may be coming to CFT for the first time. What would you say to those theatregoers coming to Chichester this season?
Leafing through the Theatre’s Festival 2019 brochure made me grin with anticipation: the programme is so varied and deliciously enticing. With the novel addition of the Spiegeltent (the very word sounds mischievously exotic), I know newcomers to Chichester are going to have a wonderful whale of a time.

Liz White makes her Chichester debut as Joy Gresham. Her many TV series include Life on Mars, Ackley Bridge and The Halcyon; theatre includes Electra (Old Vic), Port and A Woman Killed with Kindness (National Theatre).

What attracted you to the role of Joy Gresham?
I saw the film of Shadowlands years ago. She is immediately striking. Not least because in a room surrounded by men, in 1952 she asserts herself as an equal. She is not intimidated by their gender or status and she speaks with integrity about her relationship with the world around her. I admired her directness and her wit. 

How are you preparing for the role?
It is a rare treat to have so much information about a character. I am reading her book of poems which includes sonnets she wrote about Lewis and some of her essays, including The Longest Way Round, which describes her journey from Judaism to Atheism, to Communism then to Christianity. She was a tenacious seeker and as such she wasn’t intimidated by change. She was a great critic which could cause offence amongst her literary peers but she judged herself with the same scrutinous eyes. Looking back over her life, she made many impulsive changes that ultimately led to her and Lewis being so in love.

This is your first time performing at CFT. What are you most looking forward to?
I love working on stage. The whole process is very special. I always find day one of rehearsals pretty mind-blowing. All the different departments meet, all clutching the same document, inspired to make something brilliant and unique and worthy of dragging people out of the house for. Chichester Festival Theatre has an incredible reputation. I am really honoured to be a part of such an exciting production.

Q&A with Designer Peter McKintosh

Designer Peter McKintosh tells us about working with director Rachel Kavanaugh and his inspiration for the Shadowlands set.  

Tell us a bit about your background…
I studied architecture briefly at the Bartlett School, and then a degree in Theatre at Warwick University. After that I spent a year at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School on their Design course, before moving to London to see if I could get paid to do something I loved.

How did you approach the design for Shadowlands? wasn’t easy. The play is written in a very filmic style (possibly due to its origins as a television play) so scenes often shift quickly from one location to another. That’s especially challenging on a stage like Chichester, which has a ‘thrust’ stage, so we had to make some very early choices about how we were going to tell the story, which in turn dictated the way the rest of the design developed. It’s always nice to set out on these design journeys not really knowing where you’re going to end up; even more satisfying to see where you arrive.

Were you influenced by any of the actual places associated with C.S. Lewis’s life?
I visited C.S. Lewis’s house (The Kilns in Oxford) as well as the Library at Magdalen College just to soak up the atmosphere of the world that Lewis existed in. You never really know on these trips what will come of them. The Kilns is a series of very small rooms, very cosy really. The library a much grander, more solid world. There is quite accurate detail from both of those places in our set, as well as, I hope, evidence of a bigger picture: shadows, mirrors, reflection.

What was the most enjoyable part of designing for this production?
Honestly.......this process happened, for all sorts of reasons, very quickly, so it was just joyous to work with Rachel Kavanaugh (Director) again on this. She has such great instincts and loves making quick decisions and then testing them to see if they hold up: lovely bold choices about telling the story of the play without getting in the way of the author’s intentions.

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Running Time
2 hours and 20 minutes including the interval