Taking a seat in the newly reopened Apollo Theatre, glancing above at the patched up, recently collapsed ceiling, the atmosphere is already tinged with a nervous energy. On the stage, a dense and icy forest awaits, snow gently falling on the scurrying figures that run between the trees in the twilight, glancing over their shoulders as though checking for unexpected companions. My fears that 2008’s Swedish chiller, Let the Right One In might not make an easy transition from unnerving and powerful cinema to stage are already entirely unfounded.
Transferring from its sell-out run at the Royal Court Theatre last year, the extended run of Black Watch director John Tiffany’s Let the Right One In marks the long overdue West End debut of the National Theatre of Scotland. And allows another wave of theatre goers to experience this simply spectacular production, both on the part of the cast and the creative team.
It must be hard to be a vampire story in the generation of Twilight, whereby any mention of love and vampires is cast aside with an automatic association with vapid and lifeless (even more than the undead) storylines that are fed through Hollywood and subpar literature. And so I won’t make such an association… But essentially, Let the Right One In, in all its forms as short story, film and now play, isn’t about the dreaded v-word. In fact, I struggle to recall a moment when the word is uttered in the play, if so, it merely exists on the peripheries as we watch two lonely outcasts begin a life saving friendship, for both of them.
Jack Thorne’s script is beautifully honest to its source, balancing witty and at times, heart-warming, dialogue with brutal violence alongside the powerful silences that create the perpetual atmosphere of unease from the moment the lights dim and we enter the cold night before us.
Oskar (Martin Quinn) is a loner, tormented by the school yard reprobates, the suitably horrendous, in character of course, Graeme Dalling, Cristian Ortega and Angus Miller, spending his time playing alone in the courtyard of his housing estate. Upstairs, his divorced and struggling mother drinks. One evening, a young girl appears in the playground, Eli (Rebecca Benson) – Oskar’s new neighbour. Only, she doesn’t go to his school, and she never plays out in the daylight. But such things don’t worry Oskar and the two soon become close friends, taking solace in each other’s company as the town battens down the hatches in fear of a mysterious serial killer that is draining the blood of its victims…
Let the Right One In is a stunning sight, with a set expertly designed by Christine Jones and lighting by Chahine Yavroyan, transporting us to the eerie twilight of the forest to a breathless ambient soundtrack by Icelandic multi-instrumentalist, Olafur Arnalds. While terrifying and blood-soaked, this world is one of beautiful movements, as contemporary dance phrases facilitate seamless scene changes and character flow with the relatively small and multipurpose cast.
Unnerving, enchanting and heartwarming in equal measure, Let the Right One In is a beautifully brutal tale of love and friendship – and an absolute must see.
Let the Right One In is performed until 27 September 2014 at: