Review: Let The Right One In, at the Royal Court Downstairs (a National Theatre of Scotland production)

Martin Quinn as Oskar and Rebecca Benson as Eli. Photo Manuel Harlan

Martin Quinn as Oskar and Rebecca Benson as Eli. Photo Manuel Harlan

Overhearing discussions at the interval of the performance was to realise the intensity of feeling surrounding the production of Let The Right One In. Directed by John Tiffany and adapted by Jack Thorne based on the book and film by John Ajvide Lindqvist, it’s the story of a small boy who, in the isolation of his emotional and physical landscape, finds another soul to commit to, and commit he does. Appearances are deceptive, the signs unclear and relationships – human or otherwise – complicated. And then there is blood. Anyone who saw the (swedish) film has a close personal relationship with the story. Talk about great expectations.

Director John Tiffany takes care first what matters most: the white soundless ambience of the narrative is not merely the background, it’s its true character. Silence is created by walls of music, when the wall collapses, the absence of sound is deafening. The (fake) snow invades everything like an infestation. The forest looms over people’s souls and there is no escape: it exists in their living rooms and bedrooms and swimming pools.

The special effects are impressive: slit throats gush blood, a playground climbing frame is turned into a swimming pool and filled with water. The set design creates a fluent environment, like flowing blood. Scenes bleed into one another.

The story sits well with its new scottish setting. The language feels warmer but somehow this paints the isolation a brighter colour. Martin Quinn as young Oskar has a friendly open hearted demeanour and Rebecca Benson as Eli has a drained strangled quality. They look mismatched, but that’s not a bad thing. Compatibility is not the path to true love.

The production premiered in Dundee in the summer, transferred to the Royal Court theatre and is working its way to the west end. An appropriate journey for a bold, surprising, tender production rooted in far away, almost mythical, landscapes but deserving its place anywhere in the world.

P.S. The music is written by Ólafur Arnalds whose other recent work includes the tv series Broadchurch. His ghostly unnerving score is as much at home in the frozen dense forest as it was in the sun-baked Devon coast.

3 responses to “Review: Let The Right One In, at the Royal Court Downstairs (a National Theatre of Scotland production)

  1. I really liked Olafur Arnalds work even before Broadchurch. I’m tempted to try and see this production if possible as loved the book and (Swedish) film – not seen the US version though some saw it and said it was surprisingly good. I think I was too wedded to the original.

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