‘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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Well that was an intense couple of weeks..

So, I haven’t written in a while. What a bad person. Or, what a fantastic person, who’s actually had a life for a couple of weeks! Well, that’s what I’ve been telling myself anyhow..

In reality, a load of us crashed at the fhm’s house for a week, *both*  the fhms (soon to be the actual housemates, so a new nickname may be in order at some point..) came to attack my house, I made the long trek to Edinburgh to see some arty folk dancing around the streets, and jetsetted (without the use of an actual jet) around the country visiting various uni peoples. It’s been a good time. Oh aye..

So, the girlies came to visit and I, being the social hermit that I am, introduced them to the nightlife of Oxford. I’m just nice like that. I then of course made that genius decision that involved copious amounts of alcohol. Bad. Move. Am pretty sure I hold the record for *worst host in the world*. Spending the entire day in bed chucking your guts up? Yeah, I know how to show my friends a good time.. Did however find some cute little hole-in-the-wall type places that I’ve never been to before, so that was an experience. Introducing the two separate groups of friendlings? Actually went better than I thought. It’s always risky throwing different groups of people together. Simply seeing others who’ve done it over the past year, it can (more often than not) turn out pretty sour. So maybe ‘pretty’ was the wrong word to use there.. Anywho, luckily they got on fantastically, a sigh-of-relief on my part.

Then came ‘possibly-the-best-long-weekend-I’ve-had-in-a-really-really-really-long-time-because-it-was-just-so-uberly-fantastic’. Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Now, I *will* eventually get around to reviewing all (four) of the shows we went to see, but am just going to briefly say that three of them were fantastic and have probably forced me to alter my perception on comedy. In that actually pigs may fly, and I may have an actual sense of humour. I know, shocking stuff. I laughed at the same things as people who *like* The Simpsons. Shit.

Also I took a new rubber duck under my wing (Oh god, excuse the pun), who is b-e-a-utiful.. Meet Jock the Flying Scotsman..

He’s pretty.

Did I mention just how quickly I fell in lust with the city of Edinburgh? I mean, y’know, as possible as it is to be in lust with a city anyhow.. It just had the most amazing vibe, even in the areas away from the Fringe. A couple of us stumbled upon this really cute church and graveyard one day, and it was so relaxed and peaceful, you wouldn’t have known that the manic atmosphere of ‘arty’ types was going on just beyond the wall. Little things like that just made the whole experience seem real, as opposed to just a whirlwind couple of days spent at random pubs and bars and meeting people, etc. Whilst that was all great, I’m a sucker for the ‘real’ moments. Like, for instance, being sat in the window of a cafe and seeing various people we know walk past the window. That was surreal. I mean, yes I’m aware that we did actually go all the way to Edinburgh to see their show (Dildon’t, if you’re wondering. Check. It. Out.), but I don’t even see that many people I know when walking around Oxford *or* Brighton. So yeah, majorly surreal moment in time there.

Next came  a weekend in London. (The ‘posh’ end, though she’ll kill me for saying it..) Involving Nando’s, vodka, pancakes, middle of the night cups of tea and a seven-person-mattress. Yeah, you know you’re jealous. In actual fact though, it was an emotional weekend. Saying goodbye to someone that I’ve really really got to know in the past few weeks. Yeah, it was tough. Damn you America! Send. Her. Back.

Singing assassins? Seriously? Huh..

Every now and then (okay, so it’s pretty damn often) I see something that reminds me of everything there is to love about the theatre. The space, the intensity of choreography, the key to crucial casting and of course, the performance itself. I’m pretty sure the last time I came away *so* fired up and inspired by a piece of theatre, was after a one man performance of The Odyssey. Which was, outstandingly fantastic. Tonight’s performance however? Well that was a whole other kettle of fish.

Directed and choreographed by Michael Strassen, Assassins tells the story of 8 attempted, failed and successful assassinations of US Presidents. Not only was the show incredibly staged and performed, the accompanying music was phenomenal, allowing several (if not *all*) of the actors to flaunt beautiful voices. The cramped conditions of the theatre provided perfect acoustics for little-to-no voice amplification (microphones to you and me), as well as creating an intense atmosphere that rose and fell with the pace of the plots.

I definitely recommend everyone goes to see it. Not only do you come away with a relatively decent understanding of the assassinations (Hell, it pains me to say it but my History knowledge isn’t fab, I couldn’t have told you over half of the stories before tonight), but the show’s actually fantastic. And the songs aren’t your stereotypical show tunes. They hold a darker, more underlying sinister tone, similar to those of Sweeney Todd (It was after-all written by the same bloke), as well as sounding softly operatic in places. Even if you aren’t an avid theatre fan, or despise musical theatre, Assassins is a fantastic show, and enjoyably educational as well.

*Check me out being all clever writing-y. Hells yeah..*

In other news:

– This week has been culturally enriching (yes, I’m on a roll) what with the circus and the theatre (twice). Fan-bloody-tastic. Circus boys still win on the looks front, whilst The Tempest was definitely way up there in terms of concept and ‘different’ staging. I’d never imagined Shakespeare set in a futuristic time and place. The word quirky doesn’t quite begin to describe it. And finally Assassins was a fantastic end to the week.. Containing both beautiful staging and performances to inspire a drama geek such as myself to spend half the night plotting away..

– The hair colour ran away again. Or rather, I chased it with a bottle of funky smelling goo. Yay red hair. Well, super dark reddish-purple straw would be a more accurate description. Minor detail..

– I start painting people’s faces again as of tomorrow! A *big* squee I believe is in order. The brother’s school is performing Oliver, and I’m involved in make-up-ing. Excellent. I get to attack people with paintbrushes and eye-liner. Aha! I’m such a child sometimes (all the time)..