The National Theatre has added a week to its sell-out season of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials at the NT Olivier. Tickets for the extra performances – from 22 to 27 March 2004 – will go on sale Monday (12 January 2004). The National has also confirmed that the two-part production will return for another limited run at the end of the year, though dates for that have not yet been confirmed.

One of the hottest theatre tickets in town, the current His Dark Materials season sold out well before its postponed press performance this past Saturday 3 January 2004 (which followed previews from mid-December 2003). Demand has sparked off bidding wars on auction websites like ebay, where pairs of tickets for Parts 1 and 2 (with a combined face value of £76) have attracted bids of up to £460 and climbing.

Nicholas Wright's two-part stage version of Pullman's award-winning children's book trilogy was originally due to open at the NT Olivier on Saturday 20 December 2003, but the press day performances were postponed after ‘insuperable’ technical difficulties and the cancellation of several previews (See News, 8 Dec 2003).

His Dark Materials is a coming of age and a transforming spiritual experience for Lyra and Will (played by Anna Maxwell Martin and Dominic Cooper). Their great quest demands a savage struggle against the most dangerous of enemies. They encounter fantastical creatures in parallel worlds - rebellious angels, soul-eating spectres, child-catching Gobblers and the armoured bears and witch-clans of the Arctic. Finally, before reaching, perhaps, the republic of heaven, they must visit the land of the dead.

The cast also includes former 007 Timothy Dalton, Niamh Cusack and Patricia Hodge as well as Samuel Barnett, John Carlisle, Patrick Godfrey, Stephen Greif, Jamie Harding, Akbar Khurta, Inika Leigh Wright, Helen Lymbery, Tim McMullan, Helen Murton, Cecilia Noble, Nick Sampson, Danny Sapani, Jason Thorpe, Russell Tovey, Ben Whishaw, Ben Wright and Richard Youman.

Philip Pullman's original trilogy comprises Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. In addition to other awards, the last title in the series won both the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year and Whitbread Book of the Year, the first children's book to win the main prize in the award's history.

The stage production is designed by Giles Cadle with costumes by Jon Morrell, puppets by Michael Curry, lighting by Paule Constable, choreography by Aletta Collins, music by Jonathan Dove, fights by Terry King and sound by Paul Groothuis.

NOTE: The National Theatre box office will only take bookings for the extra dates from Monday 12 January 2004.

- by Terri Paddock