THE FIREWORK MAKER’S DAUGHTER: Philip Pullman, adapted by Stephen Russell
Birmingham Stage Company, at Birmingham Old Rep
Runs: 1h 55m, one interval, till 28 January 2011
Tel: 0121 303 2323
Review: Rod Dungate 15 November 2010
Young audiences are totally enthralled
‘A thousand miles ago, in a city east of the jungle’ (as the lyrics in the opening song go) there was a girl who wanted to be a firework maker like her father. But being old-fashioned, like, he thought this wasn’t a fit occupation and wanted her to get married. But she is determined to achiever her goal and sets out to prove her worth.
It’s a good tale and The Birmingham Stage Company encourage Philip Pullman’s story to explode on to the stage in a highly energetic and committed production. Theatrical delights are the order of the day including puppets and shadow play, and tricks with lights and luminosity. Earning rounds of applause from enthralled children.
This is a strong storytelling ensemble – though, thank goodness, no lengthy direct address narrative. Laura Durrant motors the story along as the daughter, Lila, ably aided and abetted by Ben Wong as her side-kick, Chulak. Musical talents among the company are much to the fore, including a barber-shop quartet of incompetent baddies. Jak Poore’s music has a lovely oriental tone.
The firework competition at the close of the play is enchantingly staged. Not all of the Pullman wordplay transfers well to the stage and occasionally the drama feels as if it may helter-skelter out of control.
However, the biggest bonus is sitting among an audience of young people, all of whom are 100 per cent focused on watching live theatre and loving every minute of it. That’s what really counts.
Lila: Laura Durrant
Lalchand / Razvanni: Chris Talman
Chulak: Ben Wong
Hamlet / Colonel Sparkington: Matt Williamson
Rambashi / The Elephant Master: Craig Painting
King / Pirate Chang: Jak Poore
Lord Parakit / Hungry Pirate / Dr Puffenasch: Iwan Tudor
Goddess of the Lake / Little Pirate: Natasha Lewis
Frangipani / Ensemble / Swing: Jennifer O’Neil
Ensemble / Swing: Alexander Scott
Directed by: Phil Clark
Designed by: Jackie Trousdale
Lighting by: Jason Taylor
Music by: Jak Poore
Sound by: Mike Beer
Production Manager: Digby Robinson
Puppeteer: Toby Olie