Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Theatre; First Night Reviews

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Theatre; First Night Reviews

Article excerpt

Byline: NICHOLAS DE JONGH

His Dark Materials

National Theatre: Olivier South Bank, SE1 (020-7452 3000)

Philip Pullman's famous trilogy of children's novels, with its parallel universes and trip to the land of the dead, its flying witches, talking bears and shrieking harpies; not to mention six-inch high, poison-bearing midgets astride dragonflies, is compellingly transferred from 1,600 pages of text to six hours' remarkable performance-time on stage, playing in two parts.

Nicholas Wright's adaptation at first talks down to the audience, only finding the right tone later. But Nicholas Hytner's grandly operatic, beautifully acted production does not shrink from emphasising that His Dark Materials is a sort of anti-religious paradise redesigned.

The business of transferring this trilogy's worlds of fantasy, its dreamlike invention of daemons, cliff-ghasts and spectres to the stage is always a daunting one.

Neither Giles Cadle's sets, nor Jonathan Dove's conventional music are exotically strange enough. But Hytner's staging has oodles of of narrative zest as it whisks between the freezing northern hemisphere, an almost deserted seaside world and acres of dead trees, green seas and yellow clouds.

The daemons, designed by Michael Curry, are vivid animal puppets.

Timothy Dalton is an ardent, swaggering Lord Ashriel. It is, though, Anna Maxwell Martin's (right) tomboyish Lyra and Dominic Cooper's brooding intense Will, who take the high acting honours.

Their triumph over the murderous Christians and the restoration of the dead to the world brings this astonishing epic of narrative and theatrical invention to an elating finale.

Previewing this week By Rachel Halliburton

Pandora 88 A highlight of this year's London International Mime Festival will inevitably be the German Fabrik Company, which has created an extraordinarily intense and beautiful piece about what it's like for two individuals to coexist in a box the size of a small lift. …

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