Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Firework-Maker’s Daughter-Review- Northern Stage

The Firework-Maker’s Daughter  -Northern Stage, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Writer: Philip Pullman

Production: John Fulljames, The Opera Group, Opera North

Reviewer: Michael Hunter

Rating: [4stars]
1st June 2013

Based on the children’s novel of Philip Pullman, this exciting new work created in partnership with The Opera Group and Opera North, has its aims set high on capturing the first timer of the opera genre, child and adult alike.
With an impressive musical orchestra ensembled to wet our appetites before any action took place, the newcomer to opera (myself included) might have been getting a few jitters in the stomach, not sure of what to expect, not sure if this is going to be to our liking!
Setting off our tale, Lila, the daughter of the firework maker in question, wants nothing more than to follow in her fathers shoes, the bright lights and the flashings of the raw chemical compounds are in her young heart and soul.
Unfortunately he doesn’t want her to follow in his path; with a more educated life in store for her, is his ideal.
Lila, in her decision to go it alone and find out the secrets of the trade before her, encounters more than she has bargained for, with wild seas and mountains to climb, searching for the elusive, magic like ingredient, Royal Sulphur is a hard task.
Only her friends, Hamlet-an all singing and dancing white elephant and Chulak, the elephant’s handler, can come to her in this hour of need.

With the spellbinding quality that The Northern Stage have offered over the years with diverse and very interesting pieces of work/art, it came to no surprise that The Firework-Makers Daughter was a superb production in all senses.
Gone were my worries of the operatic singing not being my cup of tea, the story telling, with the usage of school like overhead projectors (something that I am sure honed into the youngsters in the audience) was ingenious to capture the whole of the story in a very intelligent, but artful way.
Wonderful puppetry comically animated the landscape with an impressive score of Eastern type music, scored by David Bruce, totally encapsulating the singing and dancing perfectly.
The closing scenes of the firework battles was awe inspiring to see, and to be part of; us in the audience had to show our voices, almost X-factor style, for Lila and her newly found appreciative father, when in competition with the worlds best. The Art-attack like touches to the displays was a joy. I didn’t think a theatrical indoor firework display could be so enjoyable and successful.
Mary Bevan playing Lila, was superb in conveying her childlike qualities of exploration and intrigue, bringing to the stage a brilliant and vivid acting role.
A really impressive tale brought to life by brilliant acting by all on stage, with humour and fantasy all interlocked. The audience loved it, and gave us, the first time opera newbies a certain pause for thought.

Michael Hunter

Tags: David Bruce, John Fulljames, Mary Bevan, Newcastle, Northern Stage, Opera North, Philip Pullman, The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, The Opera Group,

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