Page last updated at 09:27 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 10:27 UK

Pullman premieres in his own play

Philip Pullman and fellow actors
Pullman threw himself into his role as an Oxford academic

Novelist Philip Pullman made a surprise acting debut in the play based on his own work, His Dark Materials.

Pullman had "enormous fun" in the role of an academic as the play opened in his home town of Oxford.

The author said "When they asked me to take part, I realised I had a burning ambition to be on the stage."

He wanted his appearance kept secret so as not to overshadow the production, but a script line congratulating his character on his books provided a clue.

'Nerve-wracking'

The author - who studied at Oxford University - wore academic robes to play an Oxford scholar and was on stage for ten minutes in a non-speaking role.

Pullman said afterwards: "It was enormous fun. I really enjoyed the whole experience. Even though I didn't have a huge part, I was rehearsed within an inch of my life.

"The audience were very warm, which made it less nerve-racking, and the actors were wonderfully supportive."

Audience member Sue Cheeseman said: "I had no idea he was in the play. I think it's amazing he managed to sneak in without anyone noticing."

The more eagle-eyed were pleased to see the author take part. Twelve-year-old Martha Fitch Little said: "I thought I recognised him. I thought he did a really good job."

Pullman's fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, follows two children through parallel universes and epic confrontations. The stage adaptation by Nicholas Wright was first seen in 2003.

Pullman was asked to take part after watching the play at the first night of a new touring production.

Birmingham Repertory Theatre company said they were "absolutely thrilled" to have the author on stage with them when the production moved to the Oxford Playhouse theatre.



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