THE LONG WALK BACK at Greenwich Theatre
We Brits love to put our sporting heroes on pedestals – but we also love to see them fall off. And few have done it quite so spectacularly as England cricketer Chris Lewis, who went from international superstar to drug-smuggling jailbird in just a few short years.
His extraordinary riches-to-rags story is told with unsparing honesty in Dougie Blaxford’s short play The Long Walk Back, the which is enjoying a sell-out run in the intimate studio space of Greenwich Theatre.
Martin Edwards is magnificent as Lewis, exactly capturing the two sides of a personality that swung wildly between almost arrogant self-belief and desperate insecurity, contrasts cleverly explored in the play by setting the action in prison with the impressive Scott Bayliss doubling up as Lewis’s cellmate and inner voice.
I particularly liked the fact that an in-depth knowledge of cricket was not a prerequisite to follow the drama because the writing is so good. But it’s the acting that really breathes life into this unlikely – yet true - story of a man who once had the world at his feet suddenly deciding to risk everything by smuggling what turned out to be cocaine into Britain, a decision that earned him a 13-year jail term.
The dialogue between Edwards and Bayliss ruthlessly exposes Lewis’s hubris – but it also reveals his gentler side as a loving son and brother who only wants to do right by his family. It also emphasises the importance and healing power of rehabilitation and self-forgiveness, a point repeated after the curtain comes down when Lewis himself bravely faces the audience in a Q&A session.
The ancient Greeks had a proverb: Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. But as The Long Walk Back shows, redemption is possible even in cases that seem hopeless.