From its over-exaggerated Horrible Histories-esque opening scene, to Matthew Bedwell's gorgeous speech describing the stars of a foreign sky, this production of the Ruby in the Smoke was watchable, but quite disappointing.
Though the majority of the cast were funny and believable, and handled the constant role changes with impressive skill - especially David Sayers playing two very contrasting twin brothers, what let it down for me was Sally Lockhart herself, the heroine of the story. Kara Chamberlain's constant reaction to everything was great, but her performance was quite over-exaggerated and didn't manage to make the character interesting to watch. Also, unrelated to the actress' skill, her fainting into Frederick's arms in the opium den was, in my opinion, an instance of of cliche sexism that was ironically suited to the Victorian setting and not what I expected from Philip Pullman - Why did Frederick not collapse too?
In contrast, the highlights were Peter Steele as Jim and Mr. Blythe, and David Palmstrom as Frederick Garland and Mr. Selby: Together they were hilarious, and apart they demonstrated impressively smooth transitions between roles and every role was convincing and engaging - despite being a relatively cliche love interest character, Frederick didn't annoy me, which is an achievement in itself; I was just left wondering what he saw in Sally.
Overall, having previously enjoyed Philip Pullman's work, I was a little disappointed with this adaptation, mostly because the heroine's performance wasn't consistently engaging. However, the supporting cast was great and the use of shadow puppets was very effective.