MEDIA: ZEITGEIST - Philip Pullman's dark caper is the Christmas must-see play at the National Theatre

It takes a curmudgeonly atheist to get right to the heart of Christmas these days, so it should come as no surprise that Philip Pullman is getting the plaudits this year.

Forget the panto, for children of all ages (as they say on the boxes of board games) the hot ticket in town this festive season is His Dark Materials - a two-part adaptation of the Pullman novels.

If you haven't read them (you should be ashamed of yourself if you haven't) they follow the fortunes of Lyra and Will in a metaphysical caper set across several parallel dimensions, some of which bear a remarkable similarity to our own little world.

You can choose to see Part I and Part II on different dates or make a day of it and watch them consecutively. If you can get tickets, that is - this ambitious (a cast of 30, including Anna Maxwell Martin and Dominic Cooper as Lyra and Will, and more technological tricks than you can shake a stick at) production is already breaking National Theatre box office records.

The show: His Dark Materials I and II

The place: National Theatre

The director: Nicholas Hytner

Until: 20 March 2004

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