There was only one fear about the Let the Right One In in Apollo Theatre in London. That it would follow the polished American remake of dark and beautiful original story by John Ajvide Lindqvist, ignoring its Swedish adaptation in 2008. Thank goodness this has not happened. Director John Tiffany actually brought in something new into the cult vampire story.
The novel ‘Let the Right One In’ (Låt den rätte komma in) has been published in 2004, one year before “Twilight” hit the bookstores and our heads, which started the vampire hysteria all over the world. But in this dark Swedish bestseller a different type of a love story has been shown, vampirism here was more of a symbol, which created a distinct character of an outcast.
12-year-old boy Oscar lives with his mother, occasionally seeing his father, who lives separately. He is a victim of everyday bullying, performed by a group of boys from his school. One night he meets a strange girl Eli, who he becomes friends with. Meanwhile horrible murders take place in Oscar’s hometown.
First thing that strikes you in Apollo Theatre is the set where the story takes place. The dark forest of tall birches, metallic cold light and a moon on the ceiling create a fearful atmosphere. The performance itself is quite naturalistic, the very first scene we witness is a murderer (as we later find out, Eli’s carer Hacan played by Clive Mendus) turning the body of his victim upside down from a tree to get the blood for his beloved one. There will be loads of blood on the stage, but if in American remake blood was playing the role of a “delimiter”, clarifying the differences between human and vampire worlds and creating the “jumping” horror scenes, here it is used mainly not to frighten (although it really does), but to demonstrate the psychological subtlety of the story. As in a very famous scene of “letting in”, where the vampire cannot enter the place without an invitation, it is more a psychological tragedy, than a horror, despite the scaring image of bleeding from the inside out Eli, who expresses her emotional hurt by the physical reaction. As British writer and film critic Peter Bradshaw said, this scene illustrates ”a haemophilia of rejection”. In the performance this scene is recreated with a great professionalism and deep understanding of this symbolic act, needless to say it is also played fantastically by Rebecca Benson (Eli).
Tiffany and writer Jack Thorne add music and dance to the performance, making it more dynamic and smoothing the lines between the chapters. It does have a good effect as this tightens the plot up, create a more holistic perception, which makes Let The Right One In a great theatre experience on its own.
But what really interesting about this theatrical production is the main character of Oscar, played by Martin Quinn. His Oscar is different both from his Swedish and American prototypes. This is a boy, that has been bullied, but still remained happy about life. He is funny, naïve, maybe even bit simple in a good way. Then he meets this complicated character that he falls in love with, but their similarities are mainly based on how castaway they feel from the society. They both sacrifice their lives for each other, but in Oscar’s case this sacrifice is shown in a play as a part of growing up and finally having a power to fully take care of someone you love. That is why, in the end Oscar puts on the clothes of his predecessor Hacan, visually getting old in front of a spectator, and taking Eli away. This little, but meaningful detail has not been described in a book or film adaptations. Without a doubt, it makes this fine production by the National Theatre of Scotland not just a great performance on itself, but a play which grants the whole story the new point of understanding.
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