Friday 10 March 2017

Diamond Dogs

Cast and crew of DD. Kneeling with the poster is John Henry Roberts, who played Richard Swift. Standing behind John is Steve Pickering, head adaptor. At the extreme left is Christopher Haimsworth, who played Roland Childe. Kneeling between the front and back rows is Abu Ansari, who played Captain Forqueray; just in front of Abu in red is Joey Steakley, who played Doctor Trintignant (spending the entire production in a mask). Katherine Keberlein, in white at the back, played Celestine, and just in front of Katherine, wearing purple, is Elana Elyce, who played Hirz. Just behind Abu and to the right of Steve Pickering is, I think, Lindsay Dorcus, puppeteer. I met all the other lovely people but I'm afraid beer and tiredness have fogged my recollection of names; I'll endeavour to identify them once this entry is posted.

The week before last I attended two performances of Diamond Dogs at the Chopin Theatre in Chicago, the first adaptation of any of my works in any medium. It's a memorably novel experience to be sitting in the audience, watching your own characters move around on stage, playing roles in a story and universe that originated in your own head.

The House Theatre team did a remarkable job with this undoubtedly challenging material, working with inventive stage and prop design to nonetheless evoke a series of settings many light years away, and hundreds of years in the future. All the cast are in the above photo, along with the crew behind the production, and it was a pleasure and privilege to see so much skill and imagination come together on stage.

My story takes place in a range of locales, from the bowels of Chasm City, to a starship, to the ravaged surface of an alien world, and ultimately the many-roomed interior of the enigmatic alien structure named Blood Spire, an enormous tower floating just off the surface of the planet Golgotha. Depicting all this in film would be a feat in itself, and quite beyond any reasonable notions of practical theatrical staging. The solution adopted by the House Theatre was to use artful minimalism and suggestion, trusting in the audience to employ their imaginations given the narrative cues provided the actors and the sound and lighting effects. I thought it worked tremendously well, and the later stages of the story - involving the passing through of the puzzle rooms in the Spire - achieved a strange, stark beauty, all with little on stage but the illuminated, moving doorways and the actors in their spacesuits. Later, as the story progressed to its grim conclusion, extremely effective use was made of the ingenious puppet designs of Mary Robinette Kowal, allowing us to follow the actors as they became something other than human. These latter scenes, aided by an unsettling score, had a truly surreal power.

I came back for a second performance, before which I participated in an enjoyable on-stage discussion event with head adaptor Steve Pickering and artistic director Nathan Allen. Afterwards, I enjoyed meeting the cast and crew again, and even had the fun of getting into one of the spacesuit costumes:

It was a tight fit (we used Abu's costume) but we just about managed it. The helmet, with its built-in LED system, was very cool. The costumes were the work of Izumi Inaba, and very effectively designed. That glowing structure behind me is one of the two moving doors which were used to depict the interior rooms of the Spire, changing colour appropriately.

I was sad to leave the second performance, knowing there would not be a chance to see it again. It had been a long build-up to something that was over and done almost before it began, but such is the nature of these things and I couldn't have been made more welcome during my time in Chicago. Unfortunately the play's run has now concluded but hopefully one or two of my readers were able to get to see it. If they got half as much fun out of Diamond Dogs as I did, then it will have been an evening well spent. My thanks to all involved, and the very best of luck with your forthcoming productions.


  1. It must have felt really special seeing your work performed on stage, probably more so than than seeing it on a book shelf in print!!
    I'm not much into theater, but I would have seen this in a shot!!

  2. Tried my best to make it down to chicago, ultimately didn't end up making it. I did order a poster from the theatre! Unfortunately they ran out and cancelled my order. Here's hoping that someday in the future I can see more Revelation Space adaptations! Or more books?

  3. Too bad I missed it. Maybe I will get the chance to see this in some form of adaption in the future. In the meantime, as zipcodemonster mentioned, how about some more Revelation Space books mr Reynolds!

  4. Serves me right for not checking on your blog more regularly, Mr. Reynolds ! I'm honestly surprised someone even attempted a theatrical adaptation of Diamond Dogs, but I'm glad to hear the team and cast at the Chopin seem to have pulled it off. :-)

  5. An animated feature of any of Alastair Reynolds' works would be awesome!!

    Indeed animated would be the happy median between stage vs full length film. Just don't make it animated and then trust Disney to make it into a live action film.....Just saying......;-)