NOTE: REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Let The Right One In had a lot of expectations when it was adapted for the stage in 2013. With a bestselling novel and a critically acclaimed film already produced, the Jack-Thorne-adapted play had little room for error. But four years later and the story by John Ajvide Lindqvist has found a third home on the stage.
The Alley Theatre plays host to the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Let The Right One In. The cast put on a dark and beautiful presentation of the coming of age story of Oskar and Eli. A story that at one moment has you giddy with happiness, and in another, frightful of what might happen next.
Cristian Ortega and Lucy Mangan are great as Oskar and Eli. The two were charming, serious, sometimes humorous and sometimes frightening. The story of the two young outcasts who form an unbreakable bond is one of both joy and terror.
Ortega does well to show Oskar as the weak outcast with dysfunctional parents who finds his only real companion in the form of Eli. Through Eli he learns to stand up for himself, enjoy the little moments and protect the ones he loves. He is able to capture the boyish happiness of getting his first girlfriend, and also the confusion a child has for the world around him.
Mangan was perfect for the part of Eli. From the moment she appears onstage the audience is fixated on her. As Eli, she is odd but humorous in one moment, and in another terrifying. She seamlessly becomes the creature who feeds on people’s blood. Exactly as the character is written, she moves her body in an almost animalistic nature. Even during moments where she is standing still. The way she positions herself makes her appear like no other person.
Plus Mangan being the only actor with an English accent in a cast of Scotsmen helps alienate her from the rest of the cast.
Her scenes with Ewan Stewart as Hakan, the man who kills people for her to feed on, are also very touching. They give you a window into what their life was like before the start of the play and leave you wondering if Oskar is destined for the same fate.
I went into the play worried that the presence of actors in their mid-twenties portraying 12 year olds would prevent me from suspending my disbelief. But this was never a great distraction. At times it was strange seeing a grown man recite words that clearly belonged to a sexually confused youth, but it did not hurt the story. Personally, I have a desire to see children in the lead roles, only because I have seen the 2008 film and know excellent performances can be presented. However, I understand this is not a realistic possibility with a traveling theatre cast.
One major thing that did not work for me was the presence of three or four “dance numbers.” I say “dance numbers” because I am not sure what to call them. Confined mostly to the first act, there are moments where the actors start moving around in an almost water dance style as light dubstep music plays in the background. Maybe I am looking too far into it and don’t see the greater underlying meaning, but in my opinion, they were distractions from the plot that did not seem to add anything.
As a side note: The novel contains a certain twist in regards to Eli that I thought was not handled particularly well. But given it’s lack of consequence on the grand story, it did not damage the play.
The great thing about this production was that it allowed the play to be experienced as a universal story. The play concerns people with Swedish names, being played by Scottish actors at a theatre house in Houston. By never stating where the story is taking place, they allow for anyone to become Oskar and Eli. They are the representation of the outcast. A literal lost generation who find happiness, and sometimes love, with each other.
Now, I’m not saying you have to be a vampire to relate to Eli or Oskar. But anyone who has been persecuted or bullied can look at this story and find a way to relate to it. It is a case study about what happens to the dog when the dog decides to bite back.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable production by the National Theatre of Scotland. The touring company will remain at the Alley Theatre till March 19. This writer highly recommends seeing the acclaimed production.