Birmingham Stage Company

The Firework-Maker's Daughter

I couldn’t be more pleased with the way the company is telling this story. What a great cast! What musical talent as well as charm and stage presence! I’m delighted with everything about it. This is one of the best productions of my work I've ever seen.

Philip Pullman

The Firework Maker's Daughter

Erupting volcanoes, talking elephants and firework displays are all part of this high-energy production which strictly avoids any nod to Christmas.

Originally a book by master story-teller Philip Pullman, it tells the tale of Lila, who wants to become a firework-maker like her father but is told it is no job for a girl.

She braves a journey through a deadly jungle, capture by pirates and an encounter with a towering fire-fiend in her search for the crucial firework ingredient, royal sulphur.

It is hard to imagine how this fast-moving, action-filled adventure full of technical wizardry could translate to the stage.

The answer, as discovered by the wonderfully creative Birmingham Stage Company, is to let the children in on the secret.

Hamlet, the talking elephant, is played with relish by actor Matt Williamson, who can be clearly seen working Hamlet's trunk, made out of articulated tubing.
Another actor sits atop a crocodile on wheels to operate its jaws.

Even actress Laura Durrant, who plays Lila, is called upon to create mountains and rivers out of brightly coloured silks when the story dictates.

By making no attempt to hide the cogs, the company succeeds in engaging the inquisitive young audience.

The show is aimed at four to 12-year-olds but many adults in the audience appreciated the eye-catching production, and not least the comedy quartet of pirates whose hilarious barber-shop vocals delighted everyone.


The Firework-Maker's Daughter explodes onto the stage in a visually stunning display of music and drama.

The show is aimed at families and children over five. It is a delightful story of a journey of discovery for the young Lila, the daughter of the accomplished firework–work maker Lalchand. She sets out on an adventure to acquire the secret ingredient to create the best firework display on earth. The cultural eastern influence gives rise to costumes and sets that are bright, colourful and imaginative. The use of puppets adds a different dimension and is truly inspirational. Their use does come as a bit of a surprise in parts, but is well executed throughout.

The whole family will love this production. It has everything - a story with meaning, eye-catching costumes and sets, puppets and music from an array of instruments that can only encourage music lesson. It's catchy, toe-tapping stuff, and brought to us by a cast which not only act, but everyone seems able to play some sort of instrument. The comedy element is apparent throughout the whole performance, with the pirates being especially entertaining.

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Philip Pullman’s tale of adventure is given the Birmingham Stage Company treatment with a pacy and imaginative production aimed at families.

Adapted by Stephen Russell, it sees Lila (Laura Durrant) climbing volcanoes, meeting spirits and fending off pirates and crocodiles to discover the secret of firework-making.

There are fantastic costumes and puppets – not least for the talking elephant Hamlet (Matt Williamson) and a fun crocodile and the liveliness of Lila and her friend, elephant keeper Chulak (Ben Wong), endear them to us from the start.

Directed by Phil Clark and designed by Jackie Trousdale, the production has some excellent effects, particularly when Lila faces the Fiend in her quest for the secret of firework making and when Chulak has to ask for help from the Goddess of the Lake. A good deal of thought has gone into the firework competition at the end. With health and safety making an indoors firework display unlikely, instead we are treated to silhouettes, music, magic and the odd bang.

by Diane Parkes


Here’s a great family show to warm the cockles on a cold November morning.

It’s based on a children’s book by Philip Pullman and fans of the author in general, or this tale in particular, won’t be disappointed.

Over the years, Pullman’s work has been adapted many times for the stage and screen.

Only a couple of years ago, the first part of the acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy got the Hollywood treatment.

I’m quite sure that Birmingham Stage Company don’t have Tinsel Town’s budget, but they certainly know how to tell a story.

We’re introduced to a feisty, young girl called Lila - who sets out on an incredible journey to discover the secret of firework making.

Along the way she scales a volcano, encounters a fire-fiend and is captured by a band of would-be pirates.

Laura Durrant is a likeable heroine, but it’s Craig Painting’s Rambashi and his barber-shop quartet who got the biggest laughs.

As always, the BSC have delivered a family show full of heart and it goes without saying the audience of schoolchildren loved it.


Philip Pullman’s book The Firework-Maker’s Daughter has become a stage play courtesy of the splendid Birmingham Stage Company, and it makes for an entertaining evening whether you’re eight or 80.

It’s told with highly imaginative use of lightning, puppetry, simple but highly effective effects and music – everyone plays an instrument or sings. We’re in a Far Eastern fairy land, where Lalchand the firework-maker (Chris Talman) is less than encouraging about his daughter’s (Laura Durrant) ability to follow his trade. Determined to succeed she sets off on a dangerous adventure to the magic mountain, accompanied by a wise, talking elephant (Matt Williamson) and his attendant (Ben Wong).But greater perils wait at home, where Dad has fallen foul of the tyrannical king. Most of the humour comes from the eccentric Rambashi (Craig Painting) and his followers, with ever new plans to make their fortune as boatman, pirates, restaurant owner or singers.

All credit book to book adaptor Stephen Russell, director Phil Clark and the whole cast, for fast moving, mystical fun.

Derek Briggs


It ends with a bang and starts with a song and the audience barely have time to catch their breath in between. The Birmingham Stage Companys production of Philip Pullmans novel The Firework-makers Daughter directed by Phil Clark sparkles, fizzes and explodes as it tells the story of Lila who wants to blow things up.

Theres a couple of problems: one shes a girl, and two she needs to find the magic ingredient hidden in a volcano that puts the whizz into fireworks. With her much shouted-at friend Chulak, the white elephant Hamlet and a host of eccentric friends and relatives her story is told at high speed with song, dance and lots of dramatic stage craft effects.

The audience of primary school children who were boisterous before the curtain went up fell silent for the two hour show. They were transfixed by a combination of Laura Durrants vibrantly stroppy stage persona as Lila, the likeable charm of Ben Wong as Chulak and a series of stunning costumes by Gemma Hughes. These were one part carnival, one part culturally inspired by India and one part catwalk fashion. Matt Williamson as the elephant and Natasha Lewis as the Goddess of the Lake in particular had beautifully crafted and weighted outfits.

This is a show that all children will enjoy due to the pace, live music, sweeping colours and humour much of it provided by Craig Painting and his catch-phrase: Its a million-rupee idea! And so is The Firework-makers Daughter.

Harry Mottram


Young audiences are totally enthralled.

‘A thousand miles ago, in a city east of the jungle’ (as the lyrics in the opening song go) there was a girl who wanted to be a firework maker like her father. But being old-fashioned, like, he thought this wasn’t a fit occupation and wanted her to get married. But she is determined to achiever her goal and sets out to prove her worth.

It’s a good tale and The Birmingham Stage Company encourage Philip Pullman’s story to explode on to the stage in a highly energetic and committed production. Theatrical delights are the order of the day including puppets and shadow play, and tricks with lights and luminosity. Earning rounds of applause from enthralled children.

This is a strong storytelling ensemble – though, thank goodness, no lengthy direct address narrative. Laura Durrant motors the story along as the daughter, Lila, ably aided and abetted by Ben Wong as her side-kick, Chulak. Musical talents among the company are much to the fore, including a barber-shop quartet of incompetent baddies. Jak Poore’s music has a lovely oriental tone and the firework competition at the close of the play is enchantingly staged.

However, the biggest bonus is sitting among an audience of young people, all of whom are 100 per cent focused on watching live theatre and loving every minute of it. That’s what really counts.