triskellian: (happy)
[personal profile] triskellian
[ profile] smiorgan and I spent today watching the stage adaptation of His Dark Materials (and bumped into [ profile] pepper_field and her A who were doing the same thing).

The long version (no plot spoilers): I was grinning with joy at the production within moments of the curtain going up. It's not an easy story to translate into a stage play - almost every character has her soul wandering around beside her as her 'daemon' in the form of an animal; Lyra, the main character, being a child, has a daemon which changes form constantly. Probably wisely, the adaptation didn't portray all of that - only major characters, and those whose daemons had a particular part to play, had their daemons represented, and Lyra's never changed on stage (although references were made to him changing, and at various points he became small and hid in her bag or pocket, and so didn't need to be shown). But those that did appear were fantastically realised, and Pantalaimon (Lyra's) was the best part of the whole production. They were done as puppets, with visible operators (dressed in plain grey shirts and trousers, to distinguish them from the rest of the characters onstage), and they were utterly convincing.

The production, sets, acting, and everything were pretty much perfect. Everyone but the woman playing Lyra had lots of different roles (even Pantalaimon's operator had a couple of others), several of them switching between playing humans and operating puppets, but I never for a moment hesitated in identifying who they were playing at any given time.

There was one major structural change to the story, involving taking a scene from the end of the book (possibly one that happened offstage in the book, I can't remember), and interweaving it through the earlier sections, which worked nicely as foreshadowing for those who had read the books, and on a different level as necessary background information for those who hadn't. Beautifully done.

The whole experience, sadly, was not quite perfect. They had of course cut a lot from the books (including, happily, the elephants-with-wheels, but unhappily not the little dudes who ride dragonflies), but cutting the entire third book was probably never an option, and so the plot of the play suffered many of the same problems as the plot of the book. But in the book what kept me reading was the character of Lyra, and in the stage play what kept me engrossed was the acting and the puppets (it feels as if I'm doing the puppets a disservice by mentioning them separately from the acting, rather than as part of it). And, just like with the books, I cried at the end.

The short version: loved it, especially the puppets as daemons. All flaws were unremovable flaws from the books, and therefore to be forgiven.

(Sidebar: in the gap between parts one and two, we went for sushi with Pepper and A, but when we got back the theatre doors were locked, with signs saying they were closed for flooding. We had a nervous ten minutes until they opened again, and then sitting in the bar we observed various plumbing contractors and theatre staff walking around looking worried. A lucky escape we had, especially since we could think of no possible remedy for cancelling the show other than giving us our money back - tickets are sold in pairs, and they're on tour, so scheduling an alternative second part might well have been impossible!)

Date: 2009-05-03 08:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sounds like fun!

Although I do wish people with this kind of creative flair would make up their own stories instead of adapting existing things.

in the gap between parts one and two, we went for sushi

Wow, was that a really long gap or amazingly fast sushi?

Date: 2009-05-03 08:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Six hours! That's seriously epic!

just because someone can do a great adaptation doesn't mean they can make something as good from scratch

Well as you say, they're different skills. Seeing as the world's hardly short of people who can make good stories I don't see what stops the production people from working with a scriptwriter.

Ho hum, I'm probably just grumpy because I don't find stories interesting second time round.

Date: 2009-05-05 10:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
make up their own stories instead of adapting existing things

I suspect the economics of such things mean that a massive pre-existing audience will tend to swing the decision.

Alternatively: maybe they do, all the time, but we never get to hear about those productions because they never make it out of whatever little local studio they started in.

Our local theatre group Eastern Angles, about whom I've posted a few times, write their own material and are terrifically inventive in their use of scenery, props and other visual devices, but they rely on fairly hefty Arts Council subsidy even in their mandated patch.

Date: 2009-05-03 08:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sounds great - was this the version that Philip P was in?
Edited Date: 2009-05-03 08:46 am (UTC)

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