Review Round Up: The Book of Dust, Bridge Theatre

We round up the reviews for the stage adaptation based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy tale.

(c)Manuel Harlan

The Guardian: **** “Hytner displays the same wizard’s touch for turning Pullman’s fast, fantasy narratives into theatrical gold. His supremely elegant production is vast, but never unruly, on a set that dazzles but does not swamp the storytelling.”

iNews: *** “Adapted by Bryony Lavery, it only fitfully enthrals, and Hytner’s production, co-directed by Emily Burns and James Cousins, is attractive, yet surprisingly pedestrian.”

Broadway World: *** “At two and a half hours, that story is stretched too thin to engage us as fully as we ought to be, the religious hokum and philosophical asides also muddying what is a fairly straightforward quest tale. For those (and there will be plenty) brought up on Star Wars and The Lord Of The Rings, that might be enough, but, as was the case for me when I read the original trilogy, the bells and whistles couldn’t compensate for a plot that held too few surprises.”

Time Out: *** “At least this fluent and visually beautiful show from Nick Hytner’s Bridge Theatre is neither cynical nor a car crash. It’s sometimes batshit but never boring. Its good and bad qualities stem from Bryony Lavery’s pedestrian adaptation of a book which is phenomenally hard to stage. ‘The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage’ revolves around two kids and a six-month-old baby, and has a plot that unravels madly – mostly on a canoe on a flooded Thames – with so many thrills, spills and mythical bit parts, even the fans argue about WTF it means.”

London *** “It’s too simplistic as adult drama but far too scary for small children – there’s violence, sudden gun shots, stories of child abuse and attempted rape. As a Christmas show, it’s a puzzling choice, particularly given the author’s anti-religious sentiments, and it doesn’t really justify its transfer to this new medium. But it should certainly satisfy the Pullman faithful until the next of his books hits our shelves.”

Evening Standard: *** “Even though playwright Bryony Lavery has streamlined, clarified and occasionally improved the story, this remains a breathlessly hectic jumble of events, overlaid with a half-scientific, half-mystical humanist message.”

The Arts Desk: **** “The stage magic is both ingenious and beguiling.”

British **** “First things first: this is the most wonderfully evocative, romantic and dramatic bit of set-projection you will see all year. Bob Crowley, video maestros Luke Halls and Zak Hein, Jon Clark on lighting, take a collective bow.  They write with light. So on a rippling river sweet-flowing or tempestuous, through a branchy,  steepled and Prioried Oxfordshire, two children pilot a birchbark canoe on a desperate mission to save a baby.  And we believe.  Ashore, cobbles or grassland, a college quadrangle and the Trout pub at Godstow effortlessly rise around them.”

City Am: “A crisp adaptation by Bryony Lavery and wondrous direction by Nicholas Hytner make for a truly magical reimagining for stage.”

The Daily Mail: *** “Pulling all this together is quite an achievement, but it comes at a cost. We’re left with a frenetic performance, fearful of stopping to reflect. There is certainly little prospect of taking time to ponder Pullman’s gnomic revelation that ‘dust is only a name for what happens when matter begins to understand itself’.”

WhatsOnStage: **** “this is a terrific piece of story-telling, confident and enthralling, a dark Christmas treat.”

The Times: *** “Good pace, clever scenery projections, an adorable baby and . . . a plot of pure tommyrot: Nick Hytner’s return to Philip Pullman’s fiction is fun to watch but intellectually little more nourishing than cornflakes. “

The Telegraph: *** “Nicholas Hytner’s new Philip Pullman adaptation at the Bridge Theatre has plenty going for it but currently feels like a Christmas curio.”

The Stage: *** “Nicholas Hytner directs a rollicking stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy novel.”

There Ought to be Clowns: “The Bridge Theatre may not be blessed with the revelatory wonder of the Olivier’s drum revolve but with co-directors Emily Burns and James Cousins, Hytner has conjured something special with Barnaby Dixon’s austerely beautiful puppety, Luke Hall’s highly effective video work and designer Bob Crowley. From genial pubs to haunting convent halls (those illuminated habits!) to raging floodwaters, we’re joyously submerged in the thrills and terrors of this parallel universe once again.”

The Book of Dust continues to play at the Bridge Theatre until the 26th February.

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