Saturday, 2 May 2009

His Dark Materials

There are some books that you would love to see realised on stage or film, but you can't quite visualise how it would work, and dread anyone trying.

This is how I feel about the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. I've always loved the books because of the depth in both the plot and characters; the fact it's partly set in Oxford makes it all the more magical to me. The film of the first book doesn't do any justice, and it's always struck me as odd that it should have been made when there was never any intention of completing the trilogy.

When the National Theatre staged a two part adaptation of the books, I desperately wanted to see it, but I never got the chance. Today, my dream finally came true, as I spent six hours in the Oxford Playhouse watching the most wonderful performances.

It's a notoriously difficult plot to stage, not least because of the daemons the population of one world are supposed to have. And how do you create armoured polar bears? The answer, it turns out, is puppetry. Beautiful puppetry, that makes use of the puppeteer, so that even if you are slightly distracted by a snow leopard being manipulated by a human, it doesn't matter, because the human is the voice, and therefore part of the enchantment.

If you happen to be in Bromley, Northampton, Edinburgh or West Yorkshire over the next couple of months, I urge you to go and see it. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that you should make a trip specially to see it. I can't possibly talk about all the aspects of what makes it so wonderful, or how they manage to cram so much into six hours, but if anyone has questions, then do write in the comments.

I doubt anyone from the National is reading this, but I really wish and hope that someone films the stage version, it's truly remarkable!


Cornflower said...

I didn't know that was coming to Edinburgh - thanks for mentioning it - and I shall investigate. I loved the books.

Ms. Yingling said...

Pullman's books sat in my library for years without anyone commenting on them, and when the movie was released, some people got quite flustered about the "anti-religious" content. Sigh. I haven't seen the movie, but the play sounds interesting. Polar bear puppets. That I would like to see.

Anonymous said...

We were luckyenough to see the original production at the National and like you sat through the whole six hours one Saturday afternoon. I would echo everything you've said and my boys will never forget it.

If you liked the puppetry, see if you can get to War Horse. It may have finished at the National now (we saw it last November)but will almost certainly be on somewhere. The puppet horses (and the phrase just doesn't convey their majesty at all) were simply magical.