Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke

Reprint Productions present The Ruby in the Smoke, a detective story that delights in its Victorian setting, following the adventures of resourceful Sally Lockhart. Much like the novel by Philip Pullman that it is based on, it appeals to both young and old.

There’s murder, there’s mystery, there’s opium, intrigue ... an excellent piece of storytelling

Being a fan of the books, I am always inordinately pleased when performances bring to life the stories that I love without feeling that they need to change them simply for the sake of putting their mark on it. For those whom books are less important to, suffice to say that Philip Pullman is an excellent storyteller and in sticking to his work this production already has a well-structured, well-researched and intriguing tale.

It’s a shame that the cast have to deal with a small venue for a play that has a pretty large scope, which means that as they run almost in circles around their set we change from open moorland to opium den. The cast has to deal with a few more characters than they have actors for, too, but they do a good job of changing both scene and character at the drop of a hat (or the addition of a shawl), and so as long as you pay attention you should figure out whether we’re in a photography studio or an Indian palace and who’s who at that point. The cast work hard as the story moves on at a pretty fast rate, but they are definitely up for the task. With competent actors and a little help from the backstage crew—who get the excitement of using a smoke machine at some points—this is a well-produced show.

There’s murder, there’s mystery, there’s opium, intrigue and a priceless ruby. Amidst all the clue-cracking and danger-of-death activity, though, the cast fit in a few laughs, with particular highlights being the enthusiastic Jim Taylor and the bashful Frederick Garland, and their showdown against Mrs Holland and her goon Mr Berry near the end. This is an excellent piece of storytelling brought to life in an enjoyable show.

Reviews by Fiona Mossman

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The Blurb

Working in collaboration with Philip Pullman (creator of His Dark Materials), the bestselling novel comes to life on stage for the first time. After her father's mysterious death, Sally Lockhart is thrown into the heart of Victorian London, battling unseen forces to uncover the secrets he left behind. Strap yourselves in for a tale of breathtaking intrigue, unforgettable characters, and, behind everything, a legendary ruby waiting to be found...