EFR - Reviews of Lucy, Lucy, Lucy Barfield

Lucy, Lucy, Lucy Barfield

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Frances Ball

at 20:38 on 6th Aug 2016

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Lucy Grace is the writer, sole performer, and protagonist of this piece. She watches the audience as they walk in with an expression like a curious, intelligent child, wrapped up in an instantly recognisable long fur coat. The Narnia reference is picked up and carried forward in a way that, astonishingly, skips easily away from cliché or overly sensitive pandering. What struck me about this show is that for all it relies on some dense symbolism, it does not over do it, instead managing to be unpredictable in some ways even though the audience can very clearly connect with the links she draws between Narnia, growing up, God, and reality.

Her story charts the child Lucy’s obsessive love of Lucy Pevensie of C.S.Lewis’s Narnia chronicles, and her childish (and yet recognisable) belief that she too will find a way to get to the same land. In her search, she stumbles upon the real life figure to whom the book is dedicated – the author’s goddaughter, Lucy Barfield. Lucy Grace, telling the story from the perspective of her adult self, seems to grow as a character at the same time as she uncovers and builds the life story of Lucy Barfield.

The whole set is hugely effective, with no prop left unused or insignificant. The single most moving aspect of the show, however, is the use of voiceover, as Barfield’s childhood best friend recounts her story. The plot is heavily laden with the significance of finding some kind of direction in life, and the terror of facing reality without guidance – “it’s called free will, get used to it”. However, the show also gives a beautiful sense that by doing Barfield justice in telling her story, Lucy Grace finds some kind of peace in herself – not that it has a predictably sweet ending. That is what makes the show such an outstanding success: it actually is a creative take on reality, and it blends artistic interpretive input with the real lives of both real Lucys.

Grace has good comic timing and characterises the story perfectly, managing to play herself without being self absorbed. She searches for clues in order to build up the story of a life; but this is a show that demonstrates how to write a story for theatre.

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Becky Wilson

at 10:25 on 7th Aug 2016

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‘Lucy, Lucy, Lucy Barfield’ is a play that traverses the thorny mental landscape between fantasy and reality. Although a one-woman show, this production revolves around three Lucys: the semi-autobiographical Lucy Grace who narrates and stars, the fictitious Lucy Pevensie from ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, and finally the eponymous Lucy Barfield, C.S. Lewis’s goddaughter, who was the inspiration for the character. Grace’s show dramatises her quest to find out more about the enigmatic Lucy Barfield.

Her research project, which could have been difficult to depict onstage, is portrayed in stimulating, inventive and often beautiful ways which merge the modern and the old-fashioned; the voice of a man on an online chatroom is spoken by an automated voice, while piles and piles of handwritten letters scatter the floor like a carpet.

From the start of the show to its abrupt (and regretful) end, Grace holds the audience’s attention tightly and refuses to let go. It is a true sign of her magnetism that, despite moving less than a few steps the entire play, I find myself completely unwilling to look away from her. Her wide-eyed, penetrative gaze is almost unbearable in its earnestness, her monologue understated and melancholic.

The plot gradually unravels to reveal something much darker than an enquiry into the life of the girl who inspired C.S. Lewis’s most widely adored novel. Grace concedes that her obsession with Lucy Barfield was triggered by her painful realisation, at the age of twenty-six, that Narnia does not exist. Of course it is not really Narnia that she is talking about, and Grace describes desperately grasping at all things transcendent – religion, even self-help books - to escape the dragging weight of reality.

When Barfield’s real fate is finally uncovered by Grace, it could not be further away from the delights of Narnia. In a particularly heart-breaking moment, Grace plays an audio clip from an interview with one of Barfield’s lifelong (and now elderly) friends. The friend recounts her attempt to give the seriously ill Barfield one final day of pleasure, and how it went horribly, horribly wrong. Placed at the climax of the play, this final blow to happiness is brutal, yet somehow delicately poised.

This show will warm your heart, but it will also break it. The audience, which is half-empty, certainly does not do such an important piece of theatre the justice it deserves, and I absolutely implore you to see it.

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