Let The Right One In: Theatre review - 'a serious vampire romance'

4.00

Royal Court, London

The genre of vampire romance is not one that I have been inclined to take seriously – at least not in its trashy Twilight phase of cynically exploiting the adolescent female market.  But Let The Right One In has a seriousness and emotional intensity that would disarm even the most militant sceptic. John Ajvide Lindqvist's cult 2004 coming-of-age novel has previously been adapted into a deeply haunting Swedish movie and a less successful Hollywood remake.

Now transferred to the Royal Court, Jack Thorne's National Theatre of Scotland stage version is directed by John Tiffany and Steven Hoggett, the team behind the balletic docudrama Black Watch.

They have produced a piece that will chill you to the marrow and break your heart.  Christine Jones's snowy set is filled with towering silver birches  – a design that seems to expose even the interior scenes to the freezing elements.  This is the forest where a serial killer is bleeding young men to death and where the bullied, lonely teenager Oskar (played with a quirky cusp-of-puberty awkwardness by the excellent Martin Quinn) is first viewed stabbing the tree trunks in a fantasy of revenge by his strange new neighbour, Eli, a girl who only comes out at night. 

Her otherness is transixingly conveyed by Rebecca Benson.  She's a limber pallid sprite who seems eerily self-possessed but who radiates the ache of exile from ordinary human contact and speaks with a weird distanced-yet-pleading lilt. She refuses to call herself a vampire but springs with a terrifying cat-like agility when desperate for blood.  What follows is a strange, tender, dangerous love story between two outsiders who intuit that they are kindred spirits.

The movie version feels like a riposte to sleek Scandinavian social complacency.  Here the emphasis is on how the Oskar and Eli are drawn together, in part, because they have been let down so badly by the adult world.  The boy's single mother is a needy, clinging alcoholic, given to curling up beside him in bed.  His father seems to have embarked on a gay relationship. His gym teacher is useless at protecting him from the bullies whose sadistic taunts are depicted with sickening immediacy.  And, crucially, Eli may be the undead mistress rather than the daughter of her jealous guardian Hakan (Ewen Stewart) whose morbid devotion has a creepy paedophile edge.

It was the choreographed movement (so renowned a feature of this directing partnership) that seemed to me the weakest element in the production –  generalising rather than amplifying the emotion and somewhat deja vu  from Frantic Assembly shows.  But Olafur Arnalds' soundscape pulses and thrums with menace and there are set pieces that will lodge forever in one's nightmares (for example, the climactic bullying scene in the swimming pool).  What impresses most, though, is how searchingly and poetically the piece uses vampire myth as a metaphor for human isolation.

To 21 December; 0207 565 5000

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions