Review: His Dark Materials (Part 2) at The Nuffield Theatre

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An epic trilogy that has been brilliantly transformed by the cast and crew of the Nuffield Youth Theatre.

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Part two of The Nuffield Youth Theatre’s voyage through Phillip Pullman’s epic trilogy brought more of The Subtle Knife, and ended with The Amber Spyglass. In the second part, we are introduced properly to the character of Will, and gain a deeper understanding of his character, and his relationship with Lyra. The cast transported the audience to Cittàgazze, the deserted city of the creeping soul-eating Spectres, and the Land of the Dead, home to the trapped souls of all dead and the vicious Harpies who guard the wasteland.

A two part play is an ambitious pursuit for even the most professional of West End performances. It requires dedication from everyone involved, including the audience members attending both nights. It’s discouraging for the cast of the second part, who often experience smaller audience sizes. Not only this, but here the cast for Part 1 and Part 2 are completely different (perhaps allowing more cast members a chance for a main role). Although an incentivising idea for the actors, as an audience member it was initially confusing to follow, despite the identical costumes. Therefore, the behaviour and characteristics of the characters changed dramatically, as well as the acting ability. While Part 1 was polished and professional, with strong leading characters, Part 2 felt a little unpracticed and the actors seemed tense and rushed.

Furthermore, the second part of the Nuffield Youth Theatre’s performance was the more complex one, with storylines and deep anti-God ideas that I still find confusing when re-reading the books. The actors and scriptwriters had their work cut out for them, and many scenes were bogged down in heavy dialogue that was at times tiring and inaudible.

This being said, there were many commendable performances that evening. The trio that made up the Gallivespian spies (Joel Barney, Max Kinder, and Lydia Williams) were highly entertaining, allowing brief respite from the challenging dialogue with some humour and melodrama. Furthermore, the roles of Brother Jasper (Jack Gouldbourne) and Lord Asriel (Conor Ledger) were both well acted and believable. The performances by Lyra (Naomi Clift) and Will (Chay Purvis) were impressive for their age, but an inconsistency in accents and a bad habit of breaking character whenever they thought no one was looking, led to a breakdown of their characters. Luckily, on this night projection was not an issue for most of the cast, merely enunciation and pace.

Overall, these were a difficult few books to script and perform, with complex ideas that most arrogantly intelligent adults would struggle to grasp in their entirety. However the work by the whole cast, the creative team, and the production team led to an incredibly well developed and thought out two part play, which made for two very enjoyable evenings. A huge round of applause to everyone involved.

His Dark Materials: Part 2 is at the Nuffield Theatre. Tickets are priced between £8.00-£18.00 and can be purchased here. 

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Head of Events for The Edge magazine. Keen concert goer and angry feminist. Shared recycled oxygen on a 12 hour flight with Foals.

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