John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel of the supernatural has already been turned into a highly successful Swedish film and an American one. However, this stage adaptation by Jack Thorne, produced by the National Theatre of Scotland, gives stunning proof, if more is needed, that, when its forces are properly harnessed, live theatre has a power that can be equalled by no other medium. It is a relatively simple story of a young adolescent boy (Martin Quinn), brutally bullied at school, and his friendship with a “vampire” (Rebecca Benson) who appears as a girl of similar age. This is not the soppy romance of the Twilight series; the characters being much younger, the relationship is chaste and there is a sense throughout of childhood innocence coming face to face with the harshness of adulthood. Underlying themes of self-empowerment and the merging of clashing cultures also give the play depth and texture, making it much more than just a feast of shocks and gore, although there are plenty of both during the course of the evening. The set is beautiful to behold – snow on the ground, bare Winter trees towering high, lit in amber and then in blue – and director John Tiffany’s staging is rich with imagination, incorporating several sequences of balletic movement to the accompaniment of a haunting, atmospheric score by Olafur Arnalds. The two leads give performances that belie their tender years, Benson being particularly impressive as she switches from sweet little girl to vicious predatory animal in an instant. This is an evening of beauty and terror in equal measure and, immediately, it can be ranked amongst the theatre highlights of 2013. If Bill Kenwright’s involvement with the production can be taken to mean that a West End transfer is already assured, it could also become one of the big commercial successes of 2014.
My review can be seen at http://www.thepublicreviews.com/dickens-abridged-arts-theatre-london/
My review can be seen at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/changing-rooms-drayton-theatre-london/
My review can be seen at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/halbwelt-kultur-jermyn-street-theatre-london/
My review can be seen at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/death-ship-666-jermyn-street-theatre-london/
After The Light Princess, this is the second successive production in the Lyttelton which begs the question as to whether the source material is really worth the enormous resources that the National has poured into it. Every inch of the width, depth and height of this huge stage is used for a production in which sets revolve, descend, collapse, ascend and move sideways. This is always inventive, often eye-catching and occasionally breathtaking: sometimes there is so much going on that it is difficult to know what we are supposed to be looking at, still less to concentrate on the play. This German expressionist drama by Georg Kaiser, dating from the early years of the 20th Century, is a very odd affair indeed. It deals with a lowly bank teller (played at this performance by Jack Tarlton) who abandons his post and his life of boring drudgery to abscond with a fortune, only to discover that there is nothing worthwhile for him to spend it on. As the title suggests, the action all takes place over the course of one day. The first half of the drama often resembles an absurdist comedy and Melly Still’s direction, incorporating mime and dance movement devised by the company, usually comes up with something imaginative or amusing to see us through the dull patches. Unfortunately, in the second half, a production that was always precariously balanced, topples over and becomes completely bogged down with social, economic and moral messages, all of which seem naive, dated and very obvious. So, the staging is spectacular and the acting is generally good, making the show intermittently entertaining but, ultimately, it is a ridiculously bloated production of a very small play which might have been seen in a better light if it had been staged on a smaller scale.
My review can be seen at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/three-phantoms-richmond-theatre-london/