Let the Right One In
I wouldn’t have banked on disturbing Swedish vampire flick Let The Right One In transferring well to stage, but the film finds new life in this brutal, beautiful adaptation from the National Theatre of Scotland.
Writer Jack Thorne cannily situates the story in snowy Glasgow; a move that works supremely well. The bleakly picturesque Swedish scenery is neatly transposed to an estate in Scotland; where the biting cold and gloomy forest setting add to the foreboding atmosphere. Christine Jones’ set is gorgeous; the stark trees of the frosty woods a constant backdrop as beds, lockers, and sweet shops are dragged onstage for short scenes. There is a dreamlike quality to the scenes that actually take place in the woods, as cast members engage in synchronised dances, often as a precursor to some gruesome bloodshed.
Martin Quinn is brilliant as the bullied Oskar – a sparkier and funnier protagonist than his film counterpart. His acceptance of Rebecca Benson’s eerie Eli is both heart-warming and chilling – as in the film, the ‘happy ending’ is ambiguous to the extreme. The supporting cast are also excellent; Stephen McCole excels as a frustrated cop hunting the perpetrator of the recent killings, Graeme Dalling convinces as a vicious school bully, and Angus Miller makes a terrifying appearance in the final scenes as a small time psychopath.
Let the Right One In is not for the faint hearted. The attack scenes are genuinely brutal; and the climatic pool scene is disturbing in the extreme. But the horror goes hand in hand with tenderness; as Oskar and Eli forge a friendship that saves them both from despair. It’s a love story of a sort, but Thorne also encompasses themes of friendship, innocence, and loyalty. Under John Tiffany's accomplished direction, it's a haunting meditation on loneliness and dependency, and the strength of a connection formed in blood.