The Drowned World


RELEASED Running until 26 FEBRUARY

Director Nicholas Hytner

Location Bridge Theatre, London

Like the three Dark Materials instalment­s before it, this first volume in Philip Pullman’s companion trilogy makes an exhilarati­ng transition to the stage.

Set over a decade before the opening of Northern Lights, with Lyra a mere baby, the focus is on innkeeper’s son Malcolm Polstead, who takes a shine to her as she’s cared for by the nuns that live across the river from his family’s pub. Although the ensuing events occur when Polstead is only 12, you quickly forget that Samuel Creasey – making an impressive theatrical debut here – is in his twenties as you get swept up by his boundless, James Cordenesqu­e exuberance.

He forms a fractious partnershi­p with spiky pot girl

Alice Parslow (a formidable Ella Dacres), who comes to his aid as Malcolm sets out in his trusty canoe – the titular La Belle Sauvage – in a desperate attempt to keep Lyra out of the clutches of the authoritar­ian Magisteriu­m.

The flooded Thames valley is evocativel­y depicted by the spectacula­r visual effects, creating a real sense of depth. But it’s the daemons – presented using War Horse-style puppets – that really capture your heart, and sinister theologian Gerard Bonneville’s malevolent hyena daemon surely ranks among the most disturbing puppets ever.

Adding some humorous references which make more sense in our world than Lyra’s, Bryony Lavery’s script really pares back the sometimes convoluted story, making for a breathless and compelling two and a half hours. Stephen Jewell

Don’t live near London? La Belle Sauvage will be broadcast live to cinemas around the country on 17 February.

 ?? ?? “Yeah, it’s your hull, mate – it’s knackered.”
“Yeah, it’s your hull, mate – it’s knackered.”

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