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HIS DARK MATERIALS PT 2 (AKA Easter in London – Part 2)

Posted: April 4th, 2005, by Marceline Smith

This was my main reason for being in London this particular weekend as it was the last chance to see this theatre production of Philip Pullman’s ace fantasy trilogy which is something of an Elidor/Tolkien anti Narnia and thus much beloved in my house. I’m not going to try and summarise the plot for you but its epic plotline encompassing a myriad of alternate worlds and the death of God and featuring a cast of humans, witches, “daemons” and ARMOURED BEARS, it was obvious this was something I really had to see live. It’s also unable to tour as it needs the stage at the National Theatre which rotates and has all manner of rising platforms making it both incredibly exciting to watch and easy to show the passage between alternate worlds.I was in the crap seats but this meant being three rows from the front at the same height as the stage which was actually amazing. I may have missed some of the overall picture but seeing the actors 3ft away gave it a whole extra level of realism. The stage was used brilliantly throughout the show with characters able to cut through doors and walk into another world or climb up from underneath. It also meant they could have 3 different sets on different levels and move them up and down to show the action in different places.

Even more impressive than this was the way they brought the non-human characters to life. Some of the major characters in the book are the daemons of humans – basically their spirit in animal form which can interact with other peoples’ daemons and generally act like another character. These were done with puppets made of translucent material and lit with lights. It was astonishing how a puppet being obviously moved and voiced by a visible actor dressed in black could feel as emotionally affecting as the human characters. At other times this was done for laughs with the tiny Gallivespians being marionette style puppets moving in very obvious jerky puppet movements. The armoured bears were also great – despite just being men dressed in shaggy clothes and armour with a puppet style bear head and plastic claw they were quite believable as the bears.

The real life actors were also generally very good although some were overacting a little too much. Lyra even had a perfect annoying accent which made me accept her immediately as the book Lyra (whose annoying accent took a long time to love in the book).

I’d pick out my highlights but it was all just wonderful and even all the major changes to the book (mainly for length reasons) worked really well. I wish I could see it again, especially since the film versions sound like they’re going to cut so much stuff out they’ll hardly be the same story. My only fear now is that any future visits to the theatre will be nowhere near as exciting as this.

Marceline Smith

Marceline is the fierce, terrifying force behind diskant.net, laughing with disdain as she fires sharpened blades of sarcasm in all directions. Based in Scotland, her lexicon consists of words such as 'jings', 'aboot' and 'aye': our trained voice analysts are yet to decipher some of the relentless stream of genius uttered on a twenty-four hour basis. Marceline's hobbies include working too much and going out in bad weather.


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