Let The Right One In - Theatre ☆☆☆☆4
Showing from - Wednesday, March 26, 2014 through till Saturday, August 30, 2014
Apollo Theatre - London
Jim Ranger | Thursday, August 28, 2014
Teenage life is tough. Falling for the vampire next door and dodging a knife-wielding murderer who drains his victims’ blood in the local woods just makes things more complicated.
At its heart this is a love story, shot through with the hope that two people can find in each other what they need to survive.In Let The Right One In at the Apollo Theatre, London, enigmatic hemovore Eli (Rebecca Benson) and hapless schoolboy Oskar (Martin Quinn) meet one night in the woods in which the murders are taking place.
Each adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel (elsewhere, a 2008 Swedish film and a 2010 New Mexico-set remake) has drawn out different themes and it’s testament to the source material that there’s so much to work with. This production by the National Theatre of Scotland – hence the north-of-the-border setting – ambitiously covers plenty of ground in two hours: from existential questions about life and death to the teenage travails of bullying, parental conflict and good old boy-meets-girl.
Oskar is being tormented by his classmates and has a difficult relationship with his mother, who is separated from his father and has begun a liaison with the local offie in his stead. Dad, we discover later, is equally frustrated in his attempts to show affection for his son. Oskar’s need for love is matched by Eli’s and it’s this as much as anything else which draws them together.
The pair’s first encounter is, on the one hand, a classic meet- cute, but their fraught conversations hint at the drama set to unfold. They invite us into their world and do their best to shield one-another from outside threats.
Both leads are convincing but it’s Benson who really shines, hinting at Eli’s emotional fragility which, despite coming from a fantastical place, is all too human and recognisable. It’s in moments of sheer terror that her inner trauma is laid bare.
Moments of intense physicality play out almost balletically, accompanied by thumping electronic rhythms
When Oskar misguidedly suggests sealing their bond in blood, she recoils in horror before lapping at the crimson on his palm, then shrieking that he must leave. The physicality of Benson’s performance here is both captivating and unnerving – her jerking, contorting movements are part-rapture, part-demonic possession.
Fans of the novel or subsequent films will understand what’s brought her to the present moment, but even without this backstory – only hinted at here – her plight is deeply affecting. Her relationship with the man she calls her father is troubling and one-sided. His English accent marks him out as even more of an outsider than Eli. Her home life, such as it is, establishes her and Oskar as kindred spirits.
Christine Jones’s set design peppers the stage with pallid birch trees and a dusting of snow, which beautifully evokes the harshness of a wintery forest, redolent as much of rural Scotland as the original Swedish landscape. Such a setting is a horror genre staple, as is the supernatural being visited on an unsuspecting small town and watching the chaos ensue, but the thoughtful scripting and strong performances drive John Tiffany’s production forward without lapsing into cliché.
The period setting (roughly late 1970s/early 1980s) is alluded to in the actors’ clothing and other touches. This in itself is powerful, as a contemporary milieu might see the audience distract themselves with wondering why people are so comfortable wandering through a spooky forest at night when there’s a murderer on the loose. In light of recent revelations about the dangers posed to children in decades past, this speaks to a certain naivety of the time.
Much of this production is original, not least its use of dance. Moments of intense physicality play out almost balletically, accompanied by thumping electronic rhythms. This is both graceful and emotive. The blood and gore, made much of in the press, rightly shocks but does not disgust or feel overwrought.
At its heart this is a love story, shot through with the hope that two people can find in each other what they need to survive.
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