Tuesday, March 22, 2005

His Dark Materials Part 2

So last week Ali and I went to see the first part of the National Theatre's adaptation of Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy of books. Ali unfortunately could not make Part 2 because she was not very well. So I invited my best mate Matt to use the unfortunately spare ticket. Here he is enjoying a glass of wine outside on the balcony at the half time interval.



Don't tell Ali that we enjoyed it though, I lied and said that it was rubbish to make her feel better about missing it. But in truth I have never seen such a spectacular production. Apparently it cost nearly a million pounds to stage the play and it really showed. The stage itself was unbelievable - there were over 60 different sets and without exception they were perfect. From Oxford University through to the Land of The Dead, the South Pole through to the palace of Armoured Bears. Simply stunning. And don't think that this was all done with simple effects and "suspension of disbelief". The stage moved up and down to reveal other sets and then split in half to reveal a screen showing virtual settings. In fact I'm told that the staging is so complicated that this production will never be able to be performed in any theatre than the Olivier because of it's unique capabilities. Simply stunning. Everyone with a love of theatre must see this play.

Update: You may quite rightly be thinking, who cares about the stage - aren't plays about the actors? Well it is a tribute to the production that the amazing sets did not overshadow a magnificent company of actors. From the principals Lyra and Will, the major supporting parts Lord Azriel and Mrs Coulter through to the whole cast, they were exceptional. The principals had a difficult task in that anyone who has read the books will have their own ideas of what these characters should have looked and sounded like - but it was uncanny - they all seemed so right. Perhaps this had something to do with Phillip Pullman, the author of the novels being so closely involved in the production? But when you consider the challenge of portraying things like all the character's daemons you realise what a good job has been done in bringing this to the stage.

If you haven't read the books this probably won't mean that much to you, so I would implore you to read them. They are truly magnificent (think Harry Potter with a brain and some substance). But once you have read them, rush down to the Olivier Theatre and book tickets. You won't be disappointed (unless you can't get a ticket I suppose). Special praise must go to the two camp/gay angels - read the books and then see the play and you'll see what I mean.

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