The dedication at the front of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe reads:
My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say but I shall still be, your affectionate Godfather,
C. S. Lewis.
Lucy Grace, long feeling a strong kinship with the book’s protagonist Lucy Pevensie, clung onto the belief in Narnia well into adulthood. When she was 26, the dawning realisation that she would never reach Narnia suddenly hit her. With a sense of crushing loss, she turned to her well-thumbed copy of the book to search for clues that might refresh her once-dependable escape from life’s hardships. Previously skipped pages were poured over for clues, leading to the discovery of the book’s dedication – a revelatory moment for Lucy Grace. There’s a real Lucy! Perhaps she knows more about Narnia and can help her rediscover its wonder as an adult! But who is she?
Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield sweetly documents Grace’s search for the real Lucy, about whom there is little information. This quest leads her down the rabbit hole of contacting Lucy’s father’s estate, researching at the Bodleian Library and interviewing Lucy’s best friend. A research project doesn’t sound like it would make dynamic, compelling theatre, but Grace manages to do so with great success on this solo show.
Grace’s performance is excellent. She has a gleeful charisma and innate sense for storytelling that keeps the audience’s attention. Her childlike wonder at each discovery is infectious. Hints of her background and struggle come through somewhat, though the script is far from self-indulgent.The design, mostly piles of cardboard boxes, lacks the delicacy of the story even though they allude to the archives Grace trawls through searching for details about Lucy’s life.
Lucy Barfield died in 2003 from MS. There is still some mystery around her life, and some of Grace’s findings directly conflict each other. But the creative young woman who danced, wrote poetry and music who inspired one of the country’s greatest writers and academics helps Lucy Grace renew her belief. Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield is a lovely little story of adventure and discovery.
Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield runs through 29th August.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.