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The Art of Darkness: Staging the Philip Pullman trilogy [Paperback]

Robert Butler
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: £14.99
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Book Description

Philip Pullman's award-winning trilogy "His Dark Materials" had everything Nicholas Hytner, the new director of the National Theatre, could want for a modern audience, but for one thing: it was almost impossible to stage. Robert Butler's intimate backstage account takes us into the meetings, workshops and rehearsals where, over six months, Pullman's 1300-page novel--about daemons, armored bears and parallel universes--was transformed into six hours of drama.

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The Art of Darkness: Staging the Philip Pullman trilogy + His Dark Materials - The Play (Nick Hern Books)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 118 pages
  • Publisher: National Theatre / Oberon; 1st edition (2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840024143
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840024142
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 16.4 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 876,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Philip Pullman's award-winning trilogy, "His Dark Materials", inspired the National Theatre to perform the story on stage. A daunting task, given the esoteric storyline and the fact that practically every reader will have already formed impressions themselves. How did they pull off this feat? Robert Butler reveals all in The Art of Darkness, telling the story of this theatrical epic from first rehearsal to first night, taking the reader on a unique back stage journey of a production unrivalled in its narrative scope and staging. To find out how His Dark Materials made it from print to stage, read this book.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Artistic Darkness 22 Jan 2004
Book Review
Title: The Art of Darkness – Staging the Philip Pullman trilogy
Author: Robert Butler
Publisher: National Theatre/Oberon Books (2003)
The Author: Robert Butler is a freelance journalist. From 1995-2000 he was drama critic of the Independent on Sunday. He has been involved with the National Theatre in several roles since the mid Eighties, and is the author of two books in the series 'The National Theatre at Work': Humble Beginnings, and Just About Anything Goes.
The Book: The book is divided into six chapters, following a chronological order. Chapter one is an introduction to the play and the books, and tells of the first few days when work on the play had just begun. Chapter two contains an interview with Philip Pullman and with Nicholas Wright. Chapters three to six cover the work that was done on converting the books into a stage play, including costumes, set design, sound, lighting and every other possible area – not in the least the struggle to represent the dæmons in a convincing manner. The book contains a lot of behind-the-scenes photographs that really help give the reader an insight into the whole process of converting the His Dark Materials books to the stage. It’s also littered with quotes and conversations from people working on all areas of the play.
My Opinion: The National Theatre describes the book as follows:
In writing the backstage account of His Dark Materials, Robert Butler follows Nicholas Hytner and his creative team over the six months leading to the first performance of both plays. The question running through it is the one anyone asks who knows the books: How are they going to do it?
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Darkness: A wonderful success 28 Mar 2004
Many of the fans of His Dark Materials, like myself, were unable to make it to London for the stage adaptation of His Dark Materials. Thankfully we have Robert Butler's 'The Art of Darkness' to compensate.
Butler had exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the staging process from the day it began, and his experience as a theatre critic allowed him to know just what to write about. Everything a fan could want to know about how it was done is included, along with plenty of photographs of all of the details.
Whether you're a fan of the books and couldn't see the play, someone who did see the play and still wonders how they did it, or whether you want to prepare for the return of the play in November, The Art of Darkness is the book for you.
More about His Dark Materials at [...]
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A daemonically incomplete companion. 4 Aug 2005
By J. Lim - Published on Amazon.com
Although I've read Pullman's trilogy, I'm not familiar with the stage adaptation beyond having browsed the tantalizing production pages that were once on the National Theatre's website. I'd hoped that this book would have similar content, with in-depth explorations of how the actors view their characters, what changes had to be made from the original text, perhaps some pix of stage scenes, and so on. Instead, this book seems to be a rather superficial summary of the pre-production process and seems to be written down to its readers, with passing references to Kenneth Branagh and Zoe Wanamaker only as "Gilderoy Lockhart" and "Madam Hooch". Although there are plenty of photos, all of them are black-and-white and most of them are of things like informal rehearsals and the design/construction process for props and costumes.

Perhaps I'm simply the wrong audience for this book, which might be hypnotically fascinating for people who actually work in theatre. However, I still think it doesn't make much sense without more knowledge of "His Dark Materials" as a staged play, whose adapted script(s) by Nicholas Wright I hadn't realized were also available and will probably buy next.

Because of those allowances, I'm giving this book one extra star from my original impression: since its focus is on pre-production rather than the finished play, it seemed like, well, all shallow foreplay and nothing more. It really doesn't seem complete by itself, as if it were a severed daemon wandering about lost and alone.
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