Before either of them found literary fame, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien had formed a close and lasting friendship. They had much in common: both lost their mothers young, they shared a strong Christian faith (although C.S. Lewis was an atheist when they met), both fought in World War One and, of course, both were passionate about literature & language and would go on to become celebrated authors.
Having grown up loving their books (I still love them), I couldn’t wait to see this first production by HodgsonCreed Productions, a newly-formed theatre company set up to produce new writing based on the lives of iconic children’s and fantasy authors. ‘The Fellowship’ , which I saw at The Hen and Chickens Theatre Bar, also happens to be a Camden Fringe pick – which sets the bar high. Well, high bar or not I was seriously impressed. The emphasis of the play is very much on the characters, acting and writing – and Henry Wyrley-Birch and Alex Appleby, as Tolkien and Lewis respectively, are both excellent. There’s a real chemistry between them, not to mention a mutual warmth and spot-on comic timing, and you can’t help but be transported back to the 1920s and the cosy Oxford pub where the two authors used to meet.
There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some truly moving ones – the 60 minutes fly by, and I was left wishing I could spend more time with these opinionated, infuriating yet highly loveable, charismatic men. With strong performances and sublime writing, this is a celebration of friendship, faith and love that deserves to find a much wider audience – I hope it does.