Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield - Review

The Narnia series is arguably one of the most famous book sets of all time, having been translated into numerous languages, televised and filmed too. The profound effect that the books have had on their readers is well documented.

Lucy Grace was given the first book at the age of 7 and felt as if her “world had shifted” with the idea that everyday places and items could really be portals to an entirely different place and time. Having the same first name as Lucy Pevensie, one of the heroines, Lucy Grace feels a strong connection to the story and the fantasy life it offers. After an epiphany she begins to doubt the possibility of a hidden alternate universe and this is a traumatic loss. She decides to try and locate the third Lucy, Lucy Barfield, to whom the book is dedicated.

With a simple set of cardboard boxes, paper and toys, we are drawn into her worlds, both real and imaginary.

Lucy Grace delivers a very affecting performance, exposing a vulnerability and core of steel as she is determined to seek her namesake in order to find herself. She has an upward inflection throughout most of the piece, which can make every sentence seem like a question. It would work slightly better if there was more variation in tone, especially in the more painful moments as this can be sightly jarring. Having said that, her performance draws the audience in and they are on her side throughout. The successes and disappointments along the way are explored with some dark moments using toys to speak for the (sometimes incredibly hostile) voices in her head. Dan Hutton has managed to create a sense of unreality through this device, that allows us a window into Lucy’s imagination and self-criticism without the need for over the top special effects that would detract from the factual nature of the story.

An interesting parallel is drawn between between the search for Narnia and Lucy Grace’s short dalliance with religion, being drawn into a church community at a time when she is really looking to replace the almost spiritual loss of the possibility of an alternate world. She also seeks to find herself in her own history, going through boxes of items from her childhood and even traumatic premature birth. This is portrayed sensitively and helps us to begin to understand Lucy Grace's desire for life and connection.

Using the technology at her disposal, the Bodleian Library and the internet, Lucy Grace does manage to trace the history of Lucy Barfield. She makes contact with a member of her family and an old friend, but the information that is provided has conflicting elements which are challenging. Every breakthrough brings hope and disappointment leaving Lucy still looking for “meaningful signs”. One of the most fascinating relationships within the piece is that between Lucy and an online Narnia fan, Reep, who has been undertaking the same search for years with no feedback or responses. The use of voice-recognition software to deliver his lines, rather than having Lucy read out his messages is clever and the slightly distant, mechanical intonation gives us a sense of Reep as another lost soul. Her interaction with him at the end is genuinely moving.

Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield details her personal journey of discovering the “real” Lucy, not just CS Lewis’s god-daughter named on the flyleaf, but also Lucy Grace herself, from a girl to a woman who has to integrate her imagination with her everyday life. It is a very interesting production, mixing fantasy and reality in a precise and measured way that works well with its theme.

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Presented by How Small, How Far Theatre Company
Produced by Chrissy Angus
Runs until 29th August
3.30pm daily (1 hr)
@howsmallhowfar, @lucygrrrace, #lucyplays

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