There is nothing like patching up a problem – but doing it ingeniously. The National Theatre of Scotland’s hit vampire play Let the Right One In re-opens at the West End’s Apollo Theatre this week.
At the end of last year, the venue in Shaftesbury Avenue was jam-packed for a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time when part of the ceiling collapsed, showering the audience with ornate plaster.
Now, a new temporary floor has been installed at the balcony level, while ongoing investigations and maintenance work take place in the roof. Below this floor hangs a beautiful, large, ceiling cyclorama of a night sky, designed by Let the Right One In set designer, Christine Jones, which immerses the audience deeper in the world of the play.
The production, directed by John Tiffany (Black Watch, Once) won the South Bank Award for Best New Play in the UK, after its run at the Royal Court Theatre in 2013, beating Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica to the post. Based on the cult Swedish film and its source novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist – there was also a Hollywood remake, Let Me In, in 2010 – it tells a moving story of mutual love
between two outsiders: Oskar (Martin Quinn), a bullied school boy, and Eli (Rebecca Benson), a vampire girl. Described as being “for adults and fearless teens aged 13+”, the play contains many gory scenes.
The production is the baby of the Canadian producer Marla Rubin, who became spellbound by the 2008 Swedish film and instantly wanted to turn it into a play. “I was taken back into my own childhood of isolation and longing for connection. I was mesmerised by it,” says Rubin. “It is a story that is presented in a sheep’s clothing of a vampire tale – but it is actually about the isolation of childhood and the longing for connection in this extraordinarily disconnected world we live in.
“That tapped into exactly what I like to do with my productions – I like to provide big moments of clarity and hope. The entire process is a therapeutic one and I also want that therapeutic healing to translate to the audience.”
Rubin, who was herself bullied at school, wanted to highlight the issue so it can be dealt with more “effectively” – especially in the climate of cyber-bullying. She obtained the rights to adapt the film for the stage six months later – “John Ajvide Lindqvist was completely open from the beginning” – and she approached the National Theatre of Scotland in 2011 to co-produce it with her. Jack Thorne was the screenwriter and playwright drafted in to write it. He was an ideal choice, having explored outsiders in the TV teen drama Skins and the TV sequels to Shane Meadows’ 2006 film This Is England, This Is England ’86 and ’88.
Rubin’s last attempt at bringing a film to stage was the hugely successful Festen, which opened at the Almeida in 2004, and was directed by Rufus Norris. The process of obtaining the rights to adapt the film for the stage was harder, taking 18 months. “Being a producer requires holding your nerve for a very long time – there are a lot of pieces to fit in the puzzle.”
Let the Right One In, Apollo Theatre, London W1 (www.right-one-in.com) to 27 September