Philip Pullman’s early work comes to the London stage

Philip Pullman’s vast contribution to literature has seen his work successfully transfer to screen and stage.

And this Christmas, one of his fairytales and earliest works, The Firework Maker’s Daughter, is to be staged at the Bloomsbury Theatre.

Pullman, who lived in London for eight years when he taught at Westminster College, is excited about seeing his work in different mediums.

He says: “I’m not nervous because I know that the stories are great and by and large they always work on the stage.”

He has praised the production, citing its “charm and stage presence”, which goes some way to show how relaxed he is about interpretations of his work.


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This latest take tells the story of Lila, whose dreams of becoming a firework-maker are dashed when her father tells her it’s no job for a girl. But undeterred she sets out for Mount Merapi in search of the elusive royal sulphur, meeting fantastical and supernatural creatures along the way, only to return to save her imprisoned father with the best firework display on earth.

Neal Foster, producer of the Birmingham Stage Company (BSC) and one of the play’s lead actors, from Islington, said: “The BSC has enjoyed a wonderful association with the UK’s finest living writers including David Almond and Michael Morpurgo and we are hugely proud to be bringing Philip Pullman’s amazing story to The Bloomsbury, particularly as in this production I will be playing the part of the King!”

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Although important, all this taking a stand as a citizen – Pullman has recently been outspoken in his defence of public libraries – and watching new versions of his stories spring up all over the place means he is often drawn away from his main business of writing.

For the last few years his main project has been the Book of Dust, a mammoth story to follow on from the Northern Lights trilogy that he has decided will come in two parts. “I shall be really glad to get back to The Book of Dust and give it my full attention – and this time finish it,” he says.

Pullman seems unhurried; the book will happen when it happens. It’s one of the many things he has on his plate as a writer. Another goal is trying to write a good short story, something that most people would think comes easily to someone like him. “Short stories-like those in The New Yorker are a particular form and they are rather difficult to do,” he says “It’s got to be like a poem. Every word, every phrase has got to carry some weight in a short story.” It’s surprising to hear that an award-winning writer has difficulty with some forms of writing, I say. Pullman responds humbly with a joke: “I haven’t won awards for short story writing, though.”

* The Firework Maker’s Daughter is at the Bloomsbury Theatre from this week until January 21. Booking on 020 7388 8822.

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