his dark materials part 1:"Gripping stage version" - Bath Chronicle review

Published: Wednesday 04 July, 2012 by Jackie Chappell, Bath Chronicle

Five years on from its original production of this play, Next Stage has done it again and delivered another gripping stage version of Philip Pullman’s trilogy depicting a battle between good and evil.

The drama revolves around teenagers Lyra and Will who inhabit different worlds.

It is one of friendship and love, but it also includes adventures with warrior bears, witches, a shaman and soul-eating spectres that knock a certain boy wizard into a cocked (or possibly pointed) hat.

The difference this time is that this production is presented, not by the adult company – one of the first amateur groups to stage the epic – but by the youth company of 11-18 year olds.

It’s every bit as spellbinding with superb performances from the youngsters.

What comes across is the cast’s obvious enjoyment of taking part in this epic and a real talent as a company for storytelling.

Props are minimal – a projected backdrop here, an original music score, some lighting or dry smoke, all of which create the illusion of another world (of which there are many), or another scene.

Lyra’s, of course, is the lead role, beautifully played by Jenny McGlynn, while Miles Aiken is excellent as her friend Roger, and as the elder Gyptian Farder Coram.

But there are many others who are excellent too – Will Greensides’ Yankee balloon-flying Lee Scoresby, Verity Ferris’ Mrs Coulter, and the delightful Flora Stone as the daemon Kaisa.

In a way it’s unfair to pick out individuals as many of the cast play numerous roles, often with quite dramatic changes of tone. The Gyptians have wonderful Irish accents, for instance.

There are moments of high drama, as in the rescue of Lyra from Bolvanger by the witch Serafina, or the fight of the bears (excellent masks), and it all ends on a cliffhanger – for which you will have to wait until next week for Part 2.

Catch this production, directed by Ann Garner, while you can – it ends on Saturday – and book up for the continuation next week.

His Dark Materials (Part 1) runs until Saturday July 7; Part 2 runs from Tuesday July 10 until Saturday July 14. Contact the Mission Theatre on 01225 428600 or visit for times and tickets.

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