Let The Right One In review: A compelling love story with stunning staging
Let The Right One In – Apollo Theatre
Approaching the end of its run at the Apollo Theatre is John Tiffany’s acclaimed production of Let The Right One In. Having already won over audiences and critics at the Dundee Rep Theatre and the Royal Court, it opened at the refurbished Apollo Theatre in the West End in March. After hearing great things about the production, I finally went to see the play in its last few weeks.
The first thing that strikes you is the stunning stage design – the original setting of Sweden from the 2004 novel (by John Ajvide Lindqvist) and cult film adaptation has been moved to a wintry Scotland in the 1980s. The play takes place in a forest full of silver birch trees which looks magical under the moonlight and a spooky street lamp. The plotline grips the audience from the start as a man is killed like a pig strung up on a tree with his blood drained – the first sign this is not a traditional love story. A serial killer is on the loose, which isn’t appearing to ruffle lonely teenager Oskar (Martin Quinn), who continues to hang around in the woods. The son of divorced parents, of which neither is quite up to the job, Oskar finds no support in school either, where he is brutally bullied by Jonny (Graeme Dalling) and his cronies.
It is in the eerie forest where Oskar meets Eli (Rebecca Benson), a pale girl who ‘smells funny’, who immediately informs him they ‘can’t be friends’. Despite her odd behaviour, Oskar is drawn to her and it isn’t long before the two form a friendship, eventually turning to romance. It soon transpires she’s a lot odder than Oskar ever anticipated – she’s a centuries old vampire and the man who appears to be her father, her ‘protector’ Hakan (Clive Mendus) has been responsible for the murders in a bid to feed her blood.
The dysfunctional dynamics between Oskar and his alcoholic mother and absent father and Eli with possessive Hakan brings up many issues aside from the love story. The play explores loneliness in its many forms, no doubt stirring many memories in the audience who would have all felt that emotion at some point in life. Despite being a ‘monster’, Eli appears more human and compassionate than the violent bullies who torment Oskar at school.
Assisted by Ólafur Arnalds’ score and beautifully choreographed movement sequences, the play has moments of horror, humour and tenderness. Quinn’s brilliant performance as awkward Oskar stirs both sympathy and laughter, while Benson is stunning as she shows both Eli’s vulnerability and horrific power simmering within. Let The Right One In brings a moving combination of plot layers, actors, stage design and music, all working together to create a striking piece of theatre. Although the production is about to end its West End run imminently, I am certain we will see this compelling show again, whether it’ll be elsewhere in the UK or New York.
- The National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Let the Right One is on the Apollo Theatre until 30 August 2014. To book, call 0844 412 4658 (no booking fee) or online at NimaxTheatres.com, Right One In.com or SeeTickets.com (no booking fee).
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.