For my interview with Artistic Director about the And That’s Another Story festival, please see the accompanying article.
Lucy Pevensie, Lucy Barfield and Lucy Grace – fictional child, real-life muse and storyteller, Lucy Grace embodies all three in Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield.
It’s inspired by a magical tale that has captured the minds of millions of children around the world, the escapism that comes from wishing to walk through a wardrobe and discover a whole new world full of magic and mystery. It gives us all hope for something better around the corner, but doesn’t seem to have had the same effect on its muse. C.S. Lewis goddaughter, Lucy Barfield, appears to have lived a hard life, stricken with multiple sclerosis that made her creative dreams of dancing impossible. Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield is another production to posthumously honour this individual, having passed away in 2003.
Lucy Grace tells of the life of Barfield, coupled with her personal love of The Chronicles of Narnia and search to find more about their muse. She uses simple devices to accent her naturally inquisitive and enticing delivery – simple props like puppets, letters and photos lend an earthy reality to the search. Quickly, she narrates her frustrations that come from trying to find more about a woman whom should be already well-known, lost to history in the way that Alice Liddell Hargreaves and Peter Llewelyn Davies are not. Much is known and documented about those behind Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan, why not The Chronicle of Narnia?
A crackly Fisher Price cassette adds memories of childhood glee, an equally crackly set of Dictaphone recordings deliver later discoveries of pathos and sorrow. Lucy Grace’s production is much more than the search for a forgotten girl, it’s a realisation that not all stories have happy endings. She desperately wants to end her tale with a message of hope and a conclusion that reveals a life well lived; but this is not a fairy tale. This is Lucy Grace standing at the edge of Brockley lido and realising that the ground will not open up and let her fall into a wonderland. She has to jump into the freezing water and let the harsh reality of adulthood sink in.
As Grace weaves her story and takes her audience by the hand through the journey, elements inherent in C.S. Lewis’ novels begin to emerge; the parallels of the world of Narnia with that of religion (specifically Christianity) are all too obvious. Grace eloquently builds up a picture of how wide-reaching these books are too – she scatters the stage with countless letters written by captivated children to the real-life Lucy Pevensie, only to discard them to one side when realising that Barfield never received any of them. Every moment of potential happiness is tinged with the sadness and sorrow of reality. Grace strikes the balance and delivers it with a matter-of-fact attitude – the journey becomes ever more discouraging.
In his dedication to Barfield at the front of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis writes, “But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” Perhaps one day Grace will be old enough to rekindle her lost hope; perhaps one day we will all believe again that we can push past the mundane trickeries of everyday life and discover a magical world to restore our hopes, deliver our dreams and promise us adventures. Until then, we can sit and watch Grace tell her story and pray that it restores our faith, or at least remind us of happier childhood memories.
Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield plays Omnibus Clapham until 18 May. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the website.