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Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

12 October 2015

Screwtape Talkback

Yesterday, I went with some friends from church to see The Screwtape Letters. If you're not familiar with the story, Screwtape is a demon who is relatively high (low?) in the demon ranks, and he is corresponding with his nephew Wormwood, who is a new (and eventually unsuccessful) Tempter demon on earth. (If you're about to howl about spoilers, I'll only point out that C.S. Lewis published this book in 1942. It's not my fault you haven't read it yet.)

So after the show there was a short talkback with the director (Max McLean, who first adapted, produced, and starred in The Screwtape Letters in 2010), which is exactly my kind of fun, and I stuck around even though some of our group had to leave. Some of them asked me to tell them about it later, though, so here it is as best as I can remember/paraphrase it without having been able to hear all the audience questions:

Image via Goodreads.
I don't remember the question that prompted this one, but it was one of the first things Mr. McLean said: We have to remember this is an autobiographical work. C.S. Lewis is the man whose soul the demons are fighting for, and the struggles he shares were his own. (Mr. McLean didn't mention, but it was in the program, that C.S. Lewis did not enjoy writing this book, because he didn't like having to write from the point of view of evil. His friend Tolkien warned him about spending too much time in that POV, and Lewis ended up dedicating the book to Tolkien.)

Q: Screwtape referred to marriage as being "The Enemy's" (God's) invention but that it was useful for demonic purposes. From the things that Lewis wrote about marriage in the book/show, what might his opinion be of marriage now?

A: Divorce in his day was an issue akin to what same-sex marriage is for us now. Lewis believed that in a country (England) where many people were non-Christians, Christians shouldn't expect non-Christians to conform to a moral standard that wasn't their own, because that would create a theocracy that he was against. He believed there should be civil marriage for all and separate Christian marriage for those who chose to bind themselves together in that way. I think he would still feel that way today.

Q: Screwtape mentioned that the road to hell is a gentle slope. Is the stage setup (a wedge-shaped piece on top of the stage floor, with a slope upwards from the audience to the back wall) meant to reflect that?

A: No, although that's a good observation. This is what's called a raked stage, which among other benefits allows the entire audience to see the whole stage floor, which is important for this show.

Q: Something about whether there are any Calvinist/predestination overtones in the show.

A: At first I thought no, there weren't, but the more I learn about C.S. Lewis and the more time I spend with this show, it seems the man's fate was never really in question, although Screwtape doesn't know that as he's fighting for the man's soul. I know there are many non-Christians who come to see the show, and I think you'll hear from Christians that spiritual warfare doesn't end at the point of conversion. It begins.

Q: Do you have non-Christians join your theatre company?

A: Yes, many. We don't have Christianity as a requirement, so we have actors of many faiths (or no faith).

Q: How much of the book did you cut out for the show?

A: To listen to the entire book would take about six hours, and I didn't think you'd all want to be here that long. We've used about 20 of the 31 letters from The Screwtape Letters. We went for the ones that could be put into a narrative that could be staged without losing too much of them in the adaptation.

Q: Did you change anything to modernise the show?

A: We changed direct references to WWII, since that was when this was published, to terror attacks, but that was the only modernisation of the words. We added some things, like the magazine with Madonna on the front and the references to models on a catwalk, but those were visual additions that didn't require changing any words. That so little needed to be changed after over 70 years speaks to the universality of this story.

Q: Something about the casting process.

A: Well, the show only has two characters. Of course, the book only has one character, but it does refer to Toadpipe (played by Karen Eleanor Wight), so we've put that character in so Screwtape can dictate his letters instead of being stuck behind a desk. We received over 600 resumes for the part of Screwtape, called in 120 for auditions, eventually narrowed it down to Brian Harris.

Q: Do the actors in this show struggle as much with performing it as Lewis did with writing it?

A: It's important to remember we aren't rewriting this, we're just interpreting it. I think Brian is having a lot of fun with it.

And that's all I can remember! Glad I decided to write this down right away instead of waiting. Have you read or seen The Screwtape Letters? Or just want to talk about C.S. Lewis?


Vapid Vixen said...

After reading the Narnia Chronicles in elementary school and obviously falling in love, I picked up The Screwtape Letters but it was too advanced for me then so I never finished it. Thanks for the reminder that it's out there and worth rediscovering.

Su Wilcox said...

It took me a couple of tries before I finally read it all the way through. Mind you, Narnia took me a couple of tries, too.