Philip Pullman's Clockwork adapted by Visible Fictions and Scottish Opera

Fairytale novel set for stage adaptation and Scottish tour

When Visible Fictions’ and Scottish Opera’s re-working of Clockwork opens this month, it will be the fifth stage adaptation of the book in seven years. Philip Pullman’s fairytale novel, known for its complex story within a story, clearly lights a flame inside theatre-makers. ‘I think there’s something wonderfully theatrical about it as a novel,’ says Visible Fictions’ artistic director, Douglas Irvine. ‘And the thing about Philip Pullman is he doesn’t shy away from complicated stuff, and won’t give you simple answers, which is lovely.’

Set in a small German town during what Pullman calls ‘the old days’, the tale centres on a lazy apprentice clockmaker, who fails in his duty to create a figure for the town clock – and ends up making a chilling pact to save face. Fusing music and song, puppetry and live action, the show is the first collaboration between Visible Fictions and Scottish Opera, with both companies keen to bring all the themes in Pullman’s story to life.

‘Ultimately, it’s a Faustian tale,’ says Irvine. ‘It’s about how far you will go, what pacts you will make, to get what you want. But I think what Pullman also says in the book is that the thing that redeems us all, is love – and that’s what we’re clearly left with at the end. He’s also raising all sorts of side issues, about scientific ethics, animatronics and genetics, but in a very accessible way.’

Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 13–Sat 16 Apr, then touring.

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