JOY DAVIDMAN turned the head of one of Britain’s legendary writers – her bold uninhibited ways shaking up the 1950s establishment at Oxford University.
Add the fact that she was a communist at the time of the Joe McCarthy witch-hunt and it’s no wonder that playing the renowned US poet and author on stage was a big draw for Amanda Ryan.
The RADA graduate will play Davidman in a revival of William Nicholson’s classic Shadowlands. She says: “Without doubt the big attraction for me was the character of Joy. I was very interested by the fact that she was a real person who had lived.
“The more I read about her, the more amazed and impressed I became by her, as a woman, and what she achieved in the era in which she lived.
“She was a communist, a passionate writer and exceptionally bright – she had a desire to learn and acquire knowledge.
“She spoke six languages, was imm-ensely well-read and had a mind that allowed her to retain and recall references without hesitation. So I’m very impressed by Joy, she’s an extraordinary person to play.”
Shadowlands tells the love story of Davidman and CS Lewis; Oxford don and author of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters.
Lewis is comfortable in his life at Oxford University, smug in his convictions about God and His plan for the world until he is disrupted by the outspoken, feisty Davidman, whose uninhibited behaviour offers a sharp contrast to the rigid sensibilities of his male-dominated sphere.
What begins as a formal meeting of two very different minds slowly develops into a feeling of connection and love, each providing the other with new ways of viewing the world.
“The play is a love story that very much surprises,” explains Amanda, best known for TV appearances in The Forsyte Saga and Shameless.
“It’s not your average rom-com. I feel that Joy already adores CS Lewis by the time she meets him. Just from reading his work and it having such a profound effect on her and her own development, she feels extremely attached to him and has a great admiration for him.
“She is a determined person. She makes things happen. She is essentially a fan who makes sure she meets her hero.
“And it turns out that her hero is quite settled in his ways and finds it difficult to be as free and as open as she is, and I think audiences will recognise and relate to this human behaviour!
“We understand the fears around loving someone: we can be very afraid to dare to be what we feel, too worried about what others might think.
“It’s the story of a man who has a very particular belief and suddenly it’s rocked by the things that happen to him in life, and I think people will understand and recognise that too.”
Starring alongside Amanda is Stephen Boxer (Humans, The Iron Lady, Doctors) as CS Lewis, and Tony Slattery (Whose Line is it Anyway?) as Major WH Lewis.
Shadowlands will run at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford from Thursday 18 February until Saturday 27 February. See yvonne-arnaud.co.uk for full details.