Let the Right One In***** (Royal Court Theatre, 4 December 2013)

Posted: December 5, 2013 in Theatre

photo-93John 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, brutally bullied at school, and his friendship with a “vampire” 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; Martin Quinn makes the boy diffident and awkward, gaining fresh confidence through the friendship; Rebecca Benson transforms convincingly from sweet little girl to ferocious 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.

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