his dark materials part 1:"Extraordinary depth of talent" - Guide2Bath review

Published: Wednesday 04 July, 2012 by Petra Schofield, Guide2Bath

Based on the epic trilogy from Philp Pullman, Next Stage Youth have taken on the challenge of presenting the stage adaptation of these infamous stories.

Under the expert guidance of Ann Garner the young troupe control and revel in the wilds of Lyra’s world. It is a fantasy world where all humans have daemons (a creature companion), who is their soul mate; if the link is severed both suffer terribly.

Lyra and Will are the central protagonists, (Will’s story is dealt with further in Part 2) Lyra is an extraordinary girl in many ways, as a result of her unknown prophecy she is pursued by witches and humans alike but her intelligence, resilience and courage allow her to evade the dangers and continue on her journey.

The assembled cast handle the weighty dialogue well and once through the early “setting up” scenes relax into an energetic, vibrant and captivating journey. This is a great team effort, led from the front by a wonderfully engaging Lyra (Jenny McGlynn) displaying a maturity of acting skill far beyond her years who, alongside a perfectly roguish Roger (Miles Aiken), make a convincing couple. Lord Asriel (Philip Davies) who also appears as Iofur Rakinson is impressively controlled; as is a very well defined, Mrs. Coulter (Verity Ferris) reflecting the changes in her strong characterisation clearly as the story progresses.

The costumes are outstanding; the bear heads particularly effective, allowing Iorek Byrnison (Yugo Jacques) to work very well with such an expressive mask, his physical stature adding to the overall vision. The original score by Bath musician Matt Finch complements the style and dynamics of the piece very well, giving the scenes an added lift.

This is a production that shows the extraordinary depth of talent in youth theatre in Bath, Part 2 has an entirely different cast and runs next week – there is no need for the future of the adult groups in the city to doubted, except that maybe some of these youngsters will find themselves treading the boards professionally and rightly so.

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