The Screwtape Letters at Park Theatre
The Screwtape Letters is a satire ripped faithfully from the pages of one of CS Lewis’s most prized works. An epistolary tale told in the form of several letters, the narrative follows Screwtape, a high ranking demon who concerns himself with guiding his novice nephew in tempting a human soul into damnation.
This is undoubtedly an intelligent and well thought-out play, which its creators should be proud of. The adaptation is largely the brainchild of director and lead actor Max McLean, who carries the hefty role of Screwtape with aplomb. To recite 90-minutes worth of dialogue is no small feat. To do so with the McLean’s fluidity, conviction and musicality marks him as an impressive talent.
The only other character on stage throughout is the protangonist’s bestial assistant Toadpipe, played by Karen Eleanor Wight. Far more useful as a prop than as a character in her own right, Toadpipe makes her main contribution to the show by embodying the various characters Screwtape describes in his letters. This winds up a key component of the piece, and the skilled physicality of her performance helps keep the dialogue-heavy play dynamic.
The choice to stay this faithful to the book is a wise one, purely because of the quality of Lewis’s writing. Changing too much would have felt like unnecessary embellishment, however, changing too little would have left theatregoers with a show no more dramatic than watching an actor write some letters. This production successfully manages to walk the line between the two.
At times, McLean does not squeeze as many laughs as he seems to aim for from his audience. However, the dry, dark humour of the source material does not naturally lend itself to a lot of guffawing, and viewers can’t help but appreciate the effort and the skill that went into dramatising The Screwtape Letters.
The Screwtape Letters is at Park Theatre from 8th December 2016 until 7th January 2017, for further information or to book visit here.