CS Lewis Web
The Lewis Legacy-Issue 85, Summer 2000
Missing the Target: "The Furhrer and the Oxford Don"
By: Kathryn Lindskoog
The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing
June 1, 2000

David Payne's first two plays about C. S. Lewis are now supplemented by
"Target Practice." Here is an excerpt from his advertising. [Note: Payne thinks the Screwtape Letters idea came to Lewis on 30 July 1940. But it came on 21 July, eight days before Hitler's persuasive 29 July broadcast.]

World War II was raging. Hitler was on the shores of France salivating at the thought of his all-conquering army capturing one of its greatest prizes -- Great Britain!

On the evening of Saturday 29th July 1940, the Fuehrer's insidious voice cut into a BBC radio program. Thousands of English homes were subjected to his propaganda. One listener, though repulsed by this intrusive tirade, was astonished at the compelling oratory of the man whose war mongering had so utterly devastated Europe.

The next day, still contemplating Hitler's momentary persuasiveness, this listener turned his thoughts to the subtle persuasiveness of man's greatest enemy. Writing to his brother Warnie, he wrote: "I was struck by the idea for a book which I think might be both useful and entertaining. It would consist of letters from an elderly retired devil to a young devil who has just started work on his first 'patient.' The idea would be to give all the psychology of temptation." Thus was born one of C S Lewis' most famous books -- The Screwtape Letters. It soon became such a sensational best seller that Lewis was featured on the front cover of Time magazine.

Target Practice draws its inspiration from The Screwtape Letters. Set in the Academy of Fiends this stage play not only explores the nature of temptation, but as Professor Daemon puts it, the nature of Targets

The Professor has only one passion. That of teaching novice fiends the techniques of attacking Targets. His new student is the hapless Fectious. She has come for a refresher course and what follows is a hilarious interplay between the bumptious and catankerous Professor and his naïve pupil.