Saturday 17 May 2014

Let The Right One In @ The Apollo Theatre

On a basic level, Let The Right One In is a simple coming of age tale of a young sweet boy dealing with puberty, adult relationships and school bullies.  Yet through its stylish Nordic noir theatricality, it becomes a study in bleak loneliness.

Based on the novel and 2008 film of the same name from Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, this theatrical adaptation was originally produced by the National Theatre of Scotland which transported the film's events from icy Sweden to the nightmarish snowy highlands.  The stark and minimalist set depicts an eternal winter of endlessly tall moonlit trees and a floor littered with snow that's equally magical and frightening.  This is only enhanced by the sumptuous score that marries melancholic strings with frosty techno beats.  As with the best Nordic dramas, the effect is wonderfully atmospheric.

Within this ominous staging a tender and awkward teen drama plays out.  It consists of a number of disturbing relationships that portray a community caught in the grip of fear after a series of murders take place in the forest.  Here the children must learn to deal with authority, whether from inadequate parents, unnerving carers or bullying older brothers.

And so an unlikely friendship forms between the relatable Oskar (Martin Quinn) and the distant Eli (Rebecca Benson).  Both are outsiders that become oddly co-dependant: the former an innocent boy molly-coddled by his insecure mother and bullied cruelly at school; the latter a strange, vulnerable otherworldly girl with a secret - she's actually a vampire.  As their relationship develops, Eli gives Oskar the confidence to deal with the bullies.  In return, Oskar offers her protection from the light as she sleeps.  Has he simply swapped one wintery hell for another?

This painfully sad narrative unfolds at a glacial pace, slowly drawing us in with its sombre mood and hypnotic choreographed movement.  It's testament to the duo's performances that the story feels so believable.  Quinn brings light touches of humour to the role of Oskar that's wholeheartedly endearing, whilst Benson manages to make the vampiric Eli a sympathetic character - as she violently devours her victims with plenty of blood and gore, it's clear this is purely out of desperate necessity rather than any sick enjoyment.

The supporting cast shuffle, downbeat, across the stage.  In particular, Clive Mendus is deliciously disturbing as Hakan, Eli's possessive carer.  He is a stark representation of Oskar's desolate and crushing future living with a partner who suffers from eternal life.

Though it has its fair share of horrifying, jump out of your seat moments, Let The Right One In is ultimately a tender yet chilling love story.  Its stunning production elevates this twisted tale of the outsider into something strangely and tragically beautiful.


Watch: Let The Right One In is booking until September 2014 at the Apollo Theatre.