mon 15/07/2024

Let The Right One In, Apollo Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Let The Right One In, Apollo Theatre

Let The Right One In, Apollo Theatre

A triumphant transfer for the beautiful, melancholy vampire drama

Warm-blooded: Rebecca Benson as Eli and Martin Quinn as OskarManuel Harlan

Flying masonry put the Apollo in the headlines late last year when part of the theatre’s ceiling collapsed; now an airborne vampire and an impressive refurbishment give it new life. A cyclorama of dark tree branches and cloud-scudded skies covers the ongoing repair work overhead.

And onstage, amid Christine Jones’s eerily gorgeous design of woodland shrouded in glittering, feathery, blue-white snow, the company of John Tiffany’s stunning production cast their heartbreaking spell.

The first West End transfer for the National Theatre of Scotland, and for the Royal Court under the artistic directorship of Vicky Featherstone, Let the Right One In is simply, quietly and sometimes cruelly beautiful. Adapted by the supremely sensitive writer Jack Thorne from the original Swedish novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist and the subsequent film versions, and with movement by Tiffany’s directorial collaborator Steven Hoggett, it is a horror story of extraordinary delicacy. Piercingly moving even at its most violent, it’s less a supernatural spinechiller than an allegory for the desperate human longing to connect and the intoxicating imperfection of love. It is also thrillingly intense and spectacularly realised – but however high it soars, there is not a single moment that isn’t grounded in the psychologically and emotionally real.

Oskar (Martin Quinn) is the lonely boy contending with vicious school bullies and his parents’ messy break-up in the early 1980s, Eli (Rebecca Benson) the strange girl who moves in next door with an older man whom Oskar assumes is her father. She doesn’t feel the cold; she can leap effortlessly from the top rungs of the climbing frame outside their flats and swarm up trees; she has a strange smell, “like”, Oskar remarks, “rotting bandages”, and curiously formal speech patterns “like an old person” – observations that cause Eli to wince self-consciously.

Benson is riveting: her athleticism unnerving, her halting voice wary and at once hopeful and despairing, she captures both the adolescent vigour of the child-woman whose development has been interrupted for all eternity, and the weariness of extreme old age. And when she kills – attacking a stranger in the woods out of near-starvation – the gory scene is above all almost unbearably sad, her body convulsed and her face contorting in distress at what her nature compels her to do.

The hunger of Quinn’s Oskar for love, understanding and acceptance is no less poignant. The scene in which he refuses to invite Eli into his home, resulting in her haemorrhaging before his horrified eyes, is shocking and theatrically ingenious. More importantly, though, the bleeding is the external evidence of Eli’s pain – the inner agony of rejection, made manifest. And there’s tenderness throughout: in the clumsy attempts of Oskar’s parents to show their love for him (there’s an elegantly poignant sequence, choreographed by Hoggett, in which Oskar’s mother climbs into bed with him on the pretext of offering maternal comfort, but in truth because she herself is in need of soothing); in the kindliness of his PE teacher and of the owner of the local sweetshop. It’s there, too, in the doomed love that Hakan (Clive Mendus), Eli’s ageing companion, feels for her, and that drives him to murder in order to feed her; and when Oskar, who romantically imagines himself a medieval knight and Eli as his maiden, curls his body protectively around the trunk in which she sleeps.

Thorne’s writing is as light and subtly intricate as a snowflake, and yet for all its icy intensity, there’s also a glowing warmth and humour here. It’s quite captivating: an unforgettable, bittersweet enchantment, infinitely more sharply penetrating than any stake through the heart.

Piercingly moving even at its most violent, it's less a supernatural spinechiller than an allegory for the desperate longing to connect


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters