Theatre review: Philip Pullman's The Ruby In The Smoke

Adapting a novel for the stage can be a challenging process.

Star rating: ***

Venue: Pleasance Dome (Venue 23)

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Adapting a complex story, such as Philip Pullman’s 1985 mystery, for a production an hour long is a tall order indeed, and hats must be doffed to Reprint Productions and young Oxford-based director Madeleine Perham, for undertaking such a thing.

The novel is the story of 16-year-old Sally Lockhart, who has to grow up fast when her beloved father is lost at sea, and the mysteries – and mysterious deaths – start to pile up around her.

Searching for the truth in the underbelly of Victorian London, she learns of a mutiny in India and a missing jewel, but she must outwit the murderous Mrs Holland, who seems to be on her trail.

It’s a compelling tale, and full of surprises, moral ambiguities and people who are other than they seem.

Reprint’s production is atmospherically staged on a set made to look like the city skyline at night and uses props and music well, but there is so much plot to get through that it can’t avoid feeling somewhat rushed.