The National's much-anticipated stage adaptation of Philip Pullman's award-winning children's book trilogy His Dark Materials will receive its world premiere at the NT Olivier on 20 December 2003, following previews from 4 December (See News, 30 Apr 2003). Adapted by Nicholas Wright and directed by NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner, the epic tale will be presented as two plays and performed by a cast of more than 30.

For Lyra and Will, His Dark Materials is a coming of age and a transforming spiritual experience. 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.

According to NT promotional material, the theatrical version "will be an epic production both in its narrative scope and its staging, involving artists from new technologies as well as old, and aims to create an experience as meaningful for 12-year-olds as for adults."

The cast for His Dark Materials will feature Dominic Cooper (Mother Clap's Molly House) as Will and Anna Maxwell Martin (currently playing Irina in Three Sisters at the NT Lyttelton) as Lyra, along with Samuel Barnett, John Carlisle, Cecilia Noble, Danny Sapani, Russell Tovey and Ben Wright.

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 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 NT 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.

Ahead of His Dark Materials in the NT Olivier, the £10 Travelex season will conclude with its fourth and final production, Odon von Horvath's 1931 epic Tales from the Vienna Woods, in a new version by David Harrower directed by Richard Jones. It runs in repertory from 14 October to 19 November 2003 (previews from 7 October), with Frances Barber (Closer, Closer to Heaven, Insignificance on stage) will be joined by Darrell D'Silva (Absolutely! {perhaps}), Nicola Waker (currently appearing in the Olivier with Kenneth Branagh in Edmond) and Joe Duttine.

The National's autumn 2003 season will also feature: the world premiere of Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman, starring Jim Broadbent and David Tennant, which opens at the NT Cottesloe on 13 November 2003, previews from 7 November (See News, 15 Aug 2003); Howard Davies' Mourning Becomes Electra, which stars Helen Mirren, Paul Hilton and Eve Best and opens at the NT Lyttelton on 27 November 2003, previews from 17 November (See News, 13 Jun 2003); and the return of Matthew Bourne's double Olivier Award-winning Play Without Words, opening in the NT Lyttelton on 16 December 2003 ahead of a spring 2004 tour (See The Goss, 15 Jul 2003).

- by Terri Paddock