Let The Right One In is a gothic story of an innocent love and loneliness; a story of needs and survival against a backdrop of horrific murders in which the victims are drained of their blood. This National Theatre of Scotland production, like the Swedish film on which it is based, is set against a cold and lonely background; silver birch trees, snow and a desolate children's climbing frame form the set with the occasional piece of furniture appearing for particular scenes.
Our protagonists are young teenagers Oskar (Martin Quinn) and Eli (Rebecca Benson). Oskar is bullied and spends his free-time alone in the woods – where his mother has forbidden him to go because of the murders. He fantasises about meting out revenge on his oppressors with his pen-knife.
It is on one of these friendless evenings he meets the strange Eli who has moved into the flat next door to Oskar with someone he assumes is her dad. Why doesn't she eat even when she’s obviously hungry? Why does she never get cold? And why does she smell? These are questions Oskar can easily ignore when Eli becomes a much-needed friend.
“Would you still like me if I turned out not to be girl?”
It is probably a little unfair to make too many comparisons with the film, which I loved, but this production has succeeded in capturing the haunting sadness helped in part by wonderfully mournful and foreboding music. The violent and bloody murders (it gets my approval for the amount of stage blood) tonally and visually contrast with the understated performances and muted colour-scape of set design and costumes.
There is a special effects designer listed among the ‘creatives’ and there are certainly some things I’ve never seen done on the stage before including a particularly inspired swimming pool scene. The actors make full use of the trees and climbing frame with Rebecca Benson moving with a natural looking agility.
She gives Eli an other-worldly awkwardness while maintaining enough warmth not to send Oskar running. Martin Quinn also convinces as the shy and bullied Oskar whose drunken mother and absent father make home life all the more isolating.
I’ll confess that I was a little bit nervous about seeing this and it would be interesting to know what others who aren’t familiar with the film think of it but I was really impressed.
This production of Let The Right One In was first staged at Dundee Rep earlier this year. It runs at the Royal Court until 21 December. Does a West End transfer beckon?
I was going to go for Stephen McCole who plays Mr Avila and was in Merlin which of course starred Colin Morgan who is currently being tortured and threatened nightly by a rather angry looking Mr W but then I discovered that John Tiffany who directed this also directed Mercury Fur which Mr W appeared in early in his career