Let The Right One In Theatre Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Official website: https://www.apollotheatrelondon.co.uk/let-the-right-one-in/
Directed by John Tiffany
Adaptation written by Jack Thorne
Rebecca Benson as Eli
Martin Quinn as Oskar
Clive Mendus as Hakan
Also starring: Graeme Dalling, Christian Ortega, Angus Miller, Gavin Kean, Gary Mackay, Susan Vidler
If you've never heard of Let The Right One In, you've got some catching up to do. Born out of John Ajvide Lindqvist's 2004 Swedish novel, his chilling vampiric romance tale was adapted into a critically-acclaimed native film by Tomas Alfredson in 2010, before receiving the Hollywood remake treatment two years later with a reworked title, Let Me In.
But it's since travelled back across the Atlantic and been transformed into a successful stage adaptation by the National Theatre of Scotland. Written by Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany (with Steven Hoggett the associate director), this modern vision has enjoyed great success. So much so that now the stage horror hit marks the first of the theatre's productions to make it to the West End. Until 27th September, Let The Right One In will turn the Apollo Theatre stage crimson.
So why the long-spanning interest? Let The Right One In is an eerie yet alluring masterpiece that tells the story of lonely, bullied teen Oskar (Martin Quinn) who falls for the new girl-next-door, Eli (Rebecca Benson). But Eli has a dark secret that Oskar is unaware of: she's a vampire, and survival depends on killing locals for their blood, with the helping hand of deeply-besotted human ex-lover Hakan (Clive Mendus). But when the town's search for the notorious 'murderer' gathers pace, their position is compromised, and Eli and Oskar's blossoming relationship must face the truths.
This is not a vampire story - neither in the traditional nor modern sense of the subgenre. The story's true heart lies in the innocent, kindling romance between Eli and Oskar and the inevitable obstacles raised by their stark mortal indifference - the latter realised through the character of Hakan. The original story is compassionate yet terrifying, and the stage version captures it sublimely.
Is it gory? Yes; there's a fair few squirts of the red stuff in brutal attacks. But while Eli rips at the neck, she also pulls at the heart strings. Both characters can't help wield sympathy from the bleak, helpless elements of their existences, and their finally-found escapism in one another that makes their special bond so touching. Benson and Quinn light up the stage together and brew up just the right chemistry. If that's not enough to melt your heart, Eli's difficult ties to Hakan, and Oskar's strained relationship with his estranged parents (Susan Vidler and Gary Mackay) should do the trick.
Beautifully choreographed dance sequences do justice to the novel's hauntingly poetic tone, while cleverly acting as fluid transition scenes. Eerie set designs, though simple, bring atmosphere and effectively communicate changes in place. A moving, electronic score does wonders to fulfill both its dramatic and emotional potential. It's chilling and electrifying, and a dazzling spectacle from start to finish.
Oskar and Eli's poignant awkwardness and innocence as they discover new, never-felt-before feelings for one another remain rightfully true to the novel. It clearly draws influences from Thompson's eponymous film, sticking to its structure and mood. You'll recognise the more brazen dialogue from Let Me In, though, which is the least appealing element of the production. You can't help but yearn for more vulnerability and timidness in Eli's character, too. Benson is wonderfully captivating as the young vampire prowess, but this adaptation provokes little empathy for her.
Nevertheless, it works as a whole. It's an enchanting play and a love letter to Lindqvist's authentic tale that will undoubtedly be adored by fans and non-fans alike.
Let The Right One In runs until 27th September 2014 at The Apollo Theatre, London. For bookings click here: https://www.apollotheatrelondon.co.uk/let-the-right-one-in/
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