‘Let The Right One In’ happened. And now my theatre brain is in overdrive.

Having spent the past five years making (and critiquing) theatre, I’ve found myself hardening to the standard forms and techniques of the craft. Be it textually, visually, or mentally, my brain autopilots on the dissection and analysis of a show, despite a production’s best efforts to capture my emotional response, often taking both inspiration and offense from a show, at least creatively. It is rare, therefore, that I find myself in this theatrical coma that is currently occupying my mind.

The last show to affect my brain in this way was early last year, at the Trafalgar Studios during their Trafalgar Transformed season. Jamie Lloyd has, for several years now, been high on my top Directors to aspire to list, and his dystopian staging of ‘Macbeth’ was easily the most breath-taking production of The Scottish play (or any Shakespeare for that matter) that I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Taking it back several years, Michael Strassen’s production of ‘The Fix’ at The Union Theatre was equally awe-inspiring. With powerful imagery and slick physicality, Strassen’s shows consistently combine beautiful aesthetics with gut-wrenching vulnerability.

This week, I was lucky enough to experience something entirely new.

The Swedish cult classic, ‘Let The Right One In’ (adapted for stage by Jack Thorne), has been transformed into a compelling and exhilarating performance. Beautifully staged, with exhilarating physicality, Director John Tiffany transports his audience into an emotional limbo, unable to respond coherently to the brutal love story strewn, bloodstained, before us. With real trees stretching high into the lighting rig, and a heavy snow frosting covering the stage, even the air-conditioned atmosphere of the auditorium kept up appearances in this chilling performance.

My view. The cast crossed the stage pre-show to create a maze of footsteps through the snow.

My view. The cast crossed the stage pre-show to create a maze of footsteps through the snow.

Haunting. Breath-taking. A soul-crushing portrayal of adolescence and existential anxiety, complete with murder, paedophilia, and vampires.

The weightlessness of the cast’s physicality, accompanied by a heavy, echoing soundtrack creates a visceral image that questions everything you think you know about the human body and it’s limits. Rebecca Benson’s performance as ‘Eli’ is alone enough of a reason to see this show. Her haunting vocal work and exquisite physicality manage to bounce between horrifying and helpless; her staccato twitching screams and writhes like an exorcism gone painfully wrong, whilst her flawless fluidity creates a terrifying ability to glide across the stage and scale the trees without second thought. It is, however, the glint in her eye that was the most exceptional aspect of Benson’s performance, both menace and dead at the same time, she captures the true essence of the Eli’s vulnerability; trapped, a victim within the ruthless killing machine of her predatory nature. Equally, in his professional debut, Martin Quinn carries the only warmth of the show, just as ‘Oskar’ carries the weight of the world in his naïve shoulders, encompassing the ever-optimistic nature of a troubled child who just hopes to find the good in the world. And in the pool scene, well, I won’t spoil it, but I was equally as breathless.

Benson as 'Eli'.

Benson as ‘Eli’.

New to this story, I was unprepared for the brutality of truth behind every idea it poses. Of humanity, of childhood, of morality and trust. It, and in particular this production, manages to suck the life out of your every idea of love, and then rip out your soul for good measure, before offering the simplest and most beautiful of ideas: love doesn’t care. Raising questions of sexuality (“What if I’m not in love with a girl?”), gender (“Would you love me if I wasn’t a girl?”), and identity (“I’m [just] Eli.”), we find ourselves in a hopeful place as the final sequence ends. Although it proves difficult not to taste the bittersweet foreshadowing of the previous two hours, and only hope that life won’t simply repeat for Oskar and Eli.

The tranquillity of the set, the beauty of the movement, the innovative staging and stunning, horrifying death sequences. From hanging, to blood work, to drowning, to free falling, with each scene I found myself convinced that I had seen it all. And John Tiffany’s production just kept raising the level of theatre. I’d never sat unable to comprehend the beauty of the show I’d just seen; attempting to fight back the tears streaming down my face, as audience left around me; struggling to find the right way to express the feelings taking over my brain and limbs before seeing this show. It’s worked its way into my twisty brain and taken route amongst the theatre making cogs, taken on a whirlwind of words and images and mind twinges inside my head and gut. My own ramblings no longer make sense to my own brain, and no doubt don’t do the haunting of this show the justice it deserves. Do yourself a favour, and book a ticket now.

‘Let The Right One In’ is the most breath-taking, awe-inspiring, gut-wrenching, soul-destroying piece of theatre I have ever seen. And I can’t wait to try and make a show anywhere near as beautiful.

 

Let The Right One In. The Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London.

http://www.apollotheatrelondon.co.uk/let-the-right-one-in/

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The perils of writing: When you are, in fact, not a writer.

I am forever finding articles, opinions, and endless lists of how to kick-start that dreaded bastard known as writer’s block. Methods to trick your brain into writing without thinking about it. Suggestions of writing, quite literally, without thinking or reading until you are entirely dry of words. Attempts to ignore that irritating little voice in the forefront of your mind telling you that actually the use of “stupid” is as stupid as you currently look (with your face scrunched into a concentrated frown, tip of tongue poking between your teeth, and last night’s dinner still staining your t-shirt), and encouraging a process of self-correction as you go. Something I personally struggle to escape from (even with a clean t-shirt).

Another option is to, quite simply, just write. Write anything. Write everything. Do whatever you can to allow those words the breath of life as they appear on the page before you. They don’t have to make the perfect of sense. They don’t have to form coherent sentences. They can simply be word after word of gibberish nonsense. As soon as they’re written, so they say, you will feel better.

I’m finding an interesting collaboration of these suggestions to be true. Whilst, yes, I am unlikely to ever shake that nagging voice of correction and on going editing, I am also finding that writing is, believe it or not, handy. It’s almost as if it is its own breed of ironic procrastination. In an attempt to hide from the pressures of an inability to write the words I need to write, I am instead finding solitude in the meaningless, the random, the unnecessary. Regardless of this fact, I have indeed managed to trick my bitchy little brain into simply writing for writing’s sake. With no deadline, no boundaries, no structure, format, or outline.

I am not a writer. I have never intended to be, nor have I ever pretended to be, a writer. And yet I frequently find myself assuming role of writer. Be it through personal or business matters, writing, it would appear, is a part of my life. Despite this, I am in a constant battle with both the need for inspiration and the challenge of having too many thoughts. It is becoming a challenge to grasp those floating thoughts and ideas and merge them with a kick-arse selection of words, that not only make sense, but make an interesting, occasionally witty, and always coherent argument/message/narrative. So instead, I just am writing. Anything. Everything. Without thought.

Peter Pan. Who knew he’d inspire my future…

Growing up. It’s a terrifying prospect. When you’re a kid you’re brought up to befriend J M Barrie’s epitome of never-growing-up: Peter Pan. You want to be this boy. You want to go to Neverland, and fight pirates, and learn to fly, and never never ever have to grow up and gain responsibilities. Some people never grow out of this mindset. They do eventually take on board their responsibilities and dress in a suit and tie day-in day-out, but they never lose that feeling of resentment towards the fact that they had to lose that innocence of childhood. That undeniably amazing feeling when you don’t have a worry in the world and get to spend hours on end in your imagination. Too many people have grown up to resent that. Occasionally there are people who decide to channel this desire to never grow up. Who use their childish dreams and imagination to fuel their adult existence. I’m hoping to be one of these people.

It’s strange because when I actually *was* a child I wasn’t all that adventurous. I’ve probably become more of a child in the past three years since being technically adult than I ever was before I turned double-figures. I’ve discovered an unhealthy obsession with dinosaurs and rubber ducks, I have a constant desire to paint people’s faces, and I really really want to go on a bear hunt. More than that though, I feel like I finally *get* my imagination. Sure, it’s dark and twisty, and (more often than not) really fucking bizarre. But at the same time it’s conceptual in it’s oddities, and it has the potential to be breath-takingly beautiful – provided that I can somehow work it out of my head and into something malleable. Something literal and physical.

This right here is why I know that I need to make theatre. I don’t have the overwhelming need to be a performer like many people. I don’t feel like my life would be incomplete if I never again experienced the adrenaline of standing before an audience and receiving their applause for my ability to be another character, or for my ability to hit several notes on-key. I do however feel like I would be empty if I was unable to make pretty things. (And yes I’m aware that that’s quite possibly the girliest thing I’ve ever admitted to, but it’s true.) I do have an overwhelming desire to take tiny insignificant thoughts and ideas and turn them into something that someone else can perform. I do crave the agonising stress that comes with putting a show together – I’m not gonna lie, I absolutely thrive off the back of pressure and high-stress situations. And the knowledge that I can potentially make new worlds through the form of theatre? It’s enough to make me never want to do anything else ever again.

Theatre makes me happy because I can create worlds from my mind. Theatre makes actors happy because they can become another person for a couple of hours. Theatre makes audiences happy because they can sit and forget about their own lives for a little while. Theatre allows you to revert to that childhood mindset of absorption into a world outside of your own. And that makes me bloody happy. So bloody happy.