Review: Screwtape Letters

Last night I took a break from reading Paradise Lost to see a play not so dissimilar, and I would suggest that all EN2003 students, as well as all students […]

Last night I took a break from reading Paradise Lost to see a play not so dissimilar, and I would suggest that all EN2003 students, as well as all students generally, follow suit. The play was Screwtape Letters and was adapted from the novel by C.S. Lewis, a big Milton fan and someone just as interested in devilish mischief. The play follows Senior Demon Screwtape and his demon accomplices, as they prey on unsuspecting Christian believers.  

One thing refreshing about this CMAD production was that neither the cast nor the audience were made up of a predominantly Mermaidsy bunch. I was also surprised when I heard, afterwards, that this was the director’s, Joseph Hartropp, directorial debut, both in St Andrews and out. The quality of the production had done quite frankly nothing to give this away.

The tech was impressive, with projections of church windows on the Barron’s back wall, hilarious sound effect sequences aiding the demonic silliness, and lighting changes which tracked the end of the play’s increasing intensity. The costumes were immaculate, the block red and black complementing the Barron’s barrenness, and the set and props were maneuvered efficiently in quick scene changes.

Dominic Kimberlin’s Screwtape seemed meticulously mapped out. His movements were dynamic, his intonations varied and his expressions well-crafted. It did occasionally run the risk of looking mechanical, however, there is no doubt that Kimberlin will relax into it more throughout the play’s run. Plus his closing lines were delivered phenomenally, and were reminiscent of his agile Caligula rendition, (which had been hinted at earlier on in the production, to comedic effects).

Tiffany Brannon was impressively versatile as the cryptic wife and vanilla churchgoer, but was most enjoyable when antagonising Screwtape in the role of the demon, Grabslatter. Sarah Dickins made a great goofy Slubjob. Wormwood, the slimy sycophant and keen bean student of Screwtape, played by Tom Longano, could always be spotted rubbing his hands together like an oily car salesman about to close on a suspicious deal. Longano could have been more grovelling towards Screwtape, and more mean generally, but the comedy was all there none-the-less. It was also nice to see Andrew Illsley equipped with the same comedic energy he had brought to the Barron just last week – a few nervous line slip-ups grazed upon an otherwise sturdy performance as the toyed-with, rather nerdy ‘subject’ of the devils’ ploys.

Just a few minute matters of  timing could be tweaked, especially when characters would cut each other off or silence each other with death stares. However, this can only improve throughout tonight’s and tomorrow’s performances. Highlights included the church sing-song where the demons warped the hymn lyrics and warbled them out with great zest, and the moment when a sheepish Wormwood popped out from behind a sofa after a blunder of his had been revealed. There were also ounces of cheesy devil jokes that did not go amiss, and by the looks of it, C. S. could have taught Milton a few things about how to have a hellish good time. 


Tonight’s performance of Screwtape Letters is (rightly) sold out, but tomorrow’s performance will commence at the Barron at 7.30pm for just £5!