C.S. Lewis’ stepson ‘mesmerized’ by PH adaptation of ‘Horse’
“I expect people to be true to the book in every sense,” said actor-producer Douglas Gresham of Trumpets’ stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Horse and His Boy.”
The American-British artist said he understood the need to modify a piece of work by his stepfather Lewis in order to fit it either for the stage or screen. However, he pointed out that “staying close to the original work is important. For example, I don’t want people to take the play into the 2000s. They must stay in the 1940s. I don’t want the children to speak the language of today, but speak like the kids did during the time the piece is set. Can you imagine the characters asking for cheeseburger and fries? It just doesn’t work that way.”
“The Horse and His Boy” is a fitting follow-up to Trumpets’ musical adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” based on a book from “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
It is a tale about an orphan boy, Shasta, and a talking horse, Bree, as they journey toward freedom from oppression and slavery. They fly from a foreign land to Narnia, the place the horse calls home and where the boy hopes to find who he is and where he truly belongs. Watching it will reconnect the audience with beloved characters from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” like Susan, Edmund and Lucy, who are now all grown-up, as well as the great lion, Aslan.
Gresham said that among the things that astounded him about stage productions in the Philippines was “the amazing freedom of imagination here. I can understand how, in America and England, they stay as close to the original setting as possible.”
Jaime del Mundo directs the script written by Luna Griño Inocian. Reb Atadero plays Shasta, while Joel Trinidad portrays the horse, Bree.
Gresham flew to Manila shortly before the play’s first staging on Nov. 6 at the Meralco Theater. He was impressed with what he saw. “It well stood up to the challenge—it’s a lovely production,” he told the Inquirer over lunch recently. “The scenes in Narnia have been beautifully put onstage. You sit there and get mesmerized by its beauty. The performances, staging, lighting and the interpretation of emotions are fabulous. It’s difficult to describe, because it only happens in the Philippines!”
Gresham likened what he experienced to how Filipinos managed to turn the jeepney into a symbol of their culture. “That’s the difference I’m trying to get across. I own a 1944 jeep from World War II—it’s one of my car collections. It’s ugly, utilitarian, noisy and smelly—but, here in the Philippines, you take the same vehicle and make it beautiful! That’s what you do with the stage, too.”
“The Horse and His Boy” is widely believed to be a piece written by Lewis with Gresham and his elder brother, David, as inspiration. However, Gresham doesn’t think so. “Yes, there’s so much of Shasta in me, but Jack (Lewis) had the uncanny ability to write about characters whom he’d never met but really existed. He wrote Edmund not knowing the boy I knew who fits the character perfectly. It’s quite extraordinary how Jack had this talent.”
Gresham added: “I used to be a boy, and I had a horse. Some of my best friends have been horses, and if you’re a boy who grew up alone as I did most of my life, to have a horse that cares for you is truly something. For that reason, ‘The Horse and His Boy’ is very special to me. It’s a story that resonates with everything I grew up with. There are lot of people who ride, particularly in the Philippines, the United States and England. They’re mostly girls, and they absolutely love the book. They’ll surely love it if they come to see it in Manila.”
Gresham hosted Focus on the Family’s radio adaptations of his stepfather’s most famous works. He later became coproducer of a series of theatrical adaptations of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” He wrote “Lenten Lands,” his autobiography, as well as a number of Christian short stories.
“The greatest compliment that I got about my writing was that I write like Jack does—that’s the finest compliment anyone could pay me,” he said. “I learned a lot from Jack, from reading and rereading his work. I also learned so much from his brother, Warnie (Warren H. Lewis), my uncle, by reading and rereading his work, too. If you really want to write well, all you have to do is read endlessly!”
C.S. Lewis’ “The Horse and His Boy” wraps up its run at Meralco Theater today.
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