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Classic goes onstage

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Christopher Laundy as Screwtape, at right, and Antoinette Collins as Wormwood rehearse a scene in The Screwtape Letters adapted from the book by CS Lewis and directed by Jessica Laundy,. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

A masterpiece of Christian literature, Screwtape Letters transformed into a play

Jessica Laundy is convinced that theatre, like all modes of storytelling, contains power to inform people and transform lives.

The parishioner at St Declan’s in Penshurst has combined two of her great passions to reach out to those who would baulk at entering a church but are open to watching a play that treats Christian values seriously.

Jessica, 30, has adapted C.S. Lewis’ classic book The Screwtape Letters as a quality theatre production to run at the Hurstville Civic Centre next month. She sees it as an untapped opportunity for evangelisation in Sydney and potentially a step along the path to fuller conversion.

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A former member of the Catholic youth evangelisation movement, Youth Mission Team, in which she served for a year and met her now-husband Christopher, Jessica has a gift for evangelisation and studied both theology and theatre at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

The couple, who are expecting their third child later this year, are funding the project themselves, with Jessica directing Christopher in the lead role as Screwtape himself.

“At its best, theatre can inspire, move, and embolden. It can celebrate humankind’s ability to love, sacrifice, hope, and persevere despite all the odds,” she said. “It can also warn us against the seductive power of pride, greed, selfishness, and deceit. It can impart timeless, universal moral themes.

Directed by Jessica Laundy, right.

“It can tell us who we are and who we might become, if only we learned. But theatre, like so many human endeavours, is also a double-edged sword.“ The theatre I used to watch were promoting these values and ethics or codes of behaviour that weren’t necessarily Christian, so it’s nice to be able to promote some theatre that embraces Christian ideals and very deep, dense, wonderful ideas in what I hope is a fun and easy way.

Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters as a series of letters from a senior devil coaching a junior devil in how to draw a young man away from the workings of grace and towards evil.

“It’s a work of genius from a moral theologian who needs no introduction, illuminating our human weakness to temptation and sin, and a profound work that has informed and inspired me for most of my adult life,” said Jessica. “Perhaps it can also offer a palatable introduction to Christianity for people who come to watch the play.

“Hopefully C.S. Lewis’s immortal words may leave an imprint on all who attend, believer and non-believer alike.

The Screwtape Letters will be performed on 8, 15 and 21 October 2022. Tickets can be purchased at https://app.tickets.org.au/Exodustheatreproductions/Screwtape Any profits donated to YMT Australia.

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