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Wednesday, 19 March, 2003
Review: The Firework-maker's Daughter
The cast of The Firework-Maker's Daughter
Girl power: Lila has to overcome all manner of fairytale obstacles to become a firework-maker

A girl with a passion for pyrotechnics sparks off a very modern fairytale.

The first stage adaptation of a Philip Pullman story crackles with gunpowder, imagination and plot writes Oonagh Jaquest.


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The Firework-maker's Daughter reviewed by pupils from Clifton School, Rotherham

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The Firework-Maker's Daughter is at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield from Saturday 12 March to Saturday 5th April.

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Philip Pullman said he enjoyed seeing one of his fairytales come full-circle at the Crucible, Sheffield on Tuesday night.

The Firework-maker's Daughter started life as a way for the former teacher to incorporate bright lights, loud bangs and eastern gamelan music into a school play.

Hayley Carmichael as Lila
Lila (Hayley Carmichael) shows her determination to master pyrotechnics.

The story of the girl with a passion for pyrotechnics became a children's book by the Whitbread award-winning author.

Now it has burst onto stage in a flurry of sparkling wit, colour and humour with the occasional glimpse of darkness.

Lila is the dishevelled but determined daughter of firework-maker Lalchand.

She longs to follow in his footsteps, but he wants her to marry and refuses to tell her the secret of the firework-maker's art.

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The Firework-maker's Daughter reviewed by pupils from Clifton School, Rotherham

As in all good myths, this disappointment is the impetus for a journey in which the heroine will encounter fantastical obstacles, rely on her friends and overcome her own weaknesses.

Edward Hogg as Chulak
The hapless helpmeet: Chulak (Edward Hogg)

The energy and inventiveness of the Told by an Idiot company make for a refreshing take on a classic genre.

Pullman is a crossover author, whose cult children's books have a wide appeal.

This production provides plenty of light, shade and moral complexity for the adults in the audience.

Here is a mythical land where the deadly consequences of failure are very real and some of the more dramatic moments have the power to make this grown-up whimper.

Hayley Carmichael's gritty Lila is a thoroughly likeable and human heroine, whose fractious relationship with the hapless Chulak (Edward Hogg) is fallible and believeable.

Julian Bleach also stands out as a master of wry understatement playing the lugubrious - and lovelorn - white elephant Hamlet.

Paul Hunter as Rambashi
Physically funny: Rambashi (Paul Hunter) and his merry band.

But the real star of the show in this ensemble piece is the imagination.

The ingenious wooden stage is a blank canvas from which flights of comic fantasy - and darker fears - can materialise at will.

Fans of cult authors often complain when magical tales are made flesh and fail to match up to the image in their mind's eye.

But here the company's ever more creative ways to represent the ephemeral, mythical and metaphorical make a virtue of theatricality.

Told by an Idiot are known for their physical theatre. Their swirling parachute silk goddesses, white elephants, scary monsters, government spies and fiery infernos should remind anyone of the sheer joy of escapism.

And there's not a cliche - certainly not a fairytale princess - in sight.

The Firework-Maker's Daughter is at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield from Saturday 12 March to Saturday 5th April.

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