The sound of thumping seat cushions hitting their backs punctuated the first bloodspill in the Apollo theatre’s Let the Right One In. The stronger-stomached among us, however, were in for a treat. The onstage adaptation of John Lindqvist’s Swedish horror novel and film is the first production to be staged in the theatre since its infamous ceiling collapse last December (you can’t blame us for having a tentative glance upwards – a night-scene screen had been pulled across).
Rehashed by This is England 86’s Jack Thorne and directed by Tony and Olivier award-winning director John Tiffany, this adaptation has Thorne’s gritty skew of rural Scotland as the setting. The story, for those who don’t know, focuses on the relationship between bullied schoolboy Oskar and a vampire girl, Eli. It may sound far-fetched but, somehow, it works.
Rebecca Benson and Martin Quinn (both albannaich natives) give standout performances as the young outcasts, with Quinn putting in a particularly endearing performance. Humour plays an important role in diluting the tension in this horror and Quinn has comic timing by the bucket-load. Susan Vidler also cuts a tragically familiar character as Oskar’s alcoholic mother.
Christine Jones’s set however, is what really gives this production its chill. Silver birch trees line the stage, and the central generator (which Benson uses with acrobatic ease) is rotated to become a water tank (we won’t give the game away on that one). Beds, sofas and lockers glide effortlessly into view – a brave and effective way of keeping bleakness at the forefront of the audience’s minds.
This production is not without flaws, though. There are a number of dance sequences which, in a play already flying close to the (experimental) wind, look almost farcical. Only one of these moments has any effect: it’s between Oskar and his mother, and had this been an isolated moment would have had far more resonance.
Despite its darkness, there are moments of happiness that make this play heart-breakingly sad. The relationship that grows between the children is doomed from the start, yet their mutual rejection from society keeps them together and, ultimately, they save each other’s lives.But, just as Oskar knows something doesn’t sit quite right with the strange new girl in his neighbourhood, there is a sense that there is something slightly askew with this play – I just can’t put my finger on it. Or, perhaps, that’s how we’re meant to feel.
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