Nicholas Hytner Casts His Dark Materials at London's National | Playbill

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News Nicholas Hytner Casts His Dark Materials at London's National The National Theatre has confirmed casting details for His Dark Materials.

Artistic Director Hytner will direct the world premiere of His Dark Materials, based on the novels by Philip Pullman, adapted by Nicholas (Vincent in Brixton) Wright into two plays. They will preview in the Olivier beginning Dec. 4, officially open Dec. 20 and run through March 2004.

The cast will be headed by Dominic Cooper as Will, Niamh Cusack as Serafina Pekkala, Timothy Dalton as Lord Asriel, Patricia Hodge as Mrs. Coulter and Anna Maxwell Martin as Lyra. Other actors include 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.

His Dark Materials takes the audience on a journey through worlds familiar and unknown. For Lyra and Will, its two central characters, it's 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 specters, child-catching Gobblers and the armored bears and witch-clans of the Arctic. Finally, before reaching, perhaps, the republic of heaven, they must visit the land of the dead.

When first appointed to the National Theatre, Nicholas Hytner said that what he was most interested in was "epic theatre," and as both artistic director of the company and director of these two plays, he is certainly delivering an epic to the National's stage. His Dark Materials is one of the National's most ambitious projects, and aims to create an experience as meaningful for 12 year olds as for adults. Parts I and II can be seen on separate dates, or on the same day in a double-bill. Dominic Cooper's stage work includes Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the RSC, Caryl Churchill Events at the Royal Court and Mother Clap's Molly House at the National. Television and film credits include "Band of Brothers," "From Hell" and "Boudica."

Niamh Cusack makes her debut at the National. Her stage work includes Merchant of Venice at Chichester Festival Theatre and Romeo And Juliet, Othello and As You Like It at the RSC.

Timothy Dalton, who sprang to international fame as James Bond after a long theatre career, makes his debut at the National Theatre. His stage work includes Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, Henry IV, Love's Labour's Lost and most recently in the West End Anthony and Cleopatra and Taming of the Shrew.

Patricia Hodge, who has played a succession of beautiful society women (including Lady Diana Cooper in the hugely popular 1970's television series "Edward and Mrs. Simpson") returns to the National where she was last seen in Noises Off, Summerfolk and A Little Night Music. Her West End work includes Noel and Gertie, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Separate Tables. Anna Maxwell Martin's work at the National includes Irina in Three Sisters (now in the Lyttelton), Honour and The Coast of Utopia. Other theatre credits include Little Foxes at the Donmar.

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy comprises Northern Lights (winner of the Carnegie Medal, Guardian Children's Fiction Prize and Children's Book of the Year at the British Book awards), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass (WHSmith Children's Book of the Year and 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).

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