Amidst the nutcrackers, snowmen and sparkle of the usual theatrical Christmas fare, a decidedly different production occupies the festive slot at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square. Let the Right One In is a London revival of the National Theatre of Scotland production that premiered in Dundee in June. It transfers to the Royal Court under the direction of John Tiffany, whose recent theatre work includes the acclaimed Black Watch and the musical adaptation of Once that now plays at the Phoenix Theatre.
Christine Jones’s set transports the audience to the snow-filled outskirts of town, filled with tall silver birch trees, where we encounter the lonely teenage Oskar, living with his mother after his parents’ separation. Oskar’s main concern is avoiding the merciless cruelty of the school bullies, and he fills his time by stealing from the local sweet shop and playing alone on a metal climbing frame near his house. Or, he thinks he is alone, until a teenage girl name Eli appears one evening. Oskar finds in Eli the companionship and understanding that he craves, but what he doesn’t realise is that Eli has a quite personal connection with the recent spate of violent murders around town.
Although the publicity material describes it as a ‘vampire myth’, care is taken in the script to ensure that the word is never actually uttered on stage; Eli just identifies as someone who has ‘lived for a long time.’ Instead, this stage adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel is more a story about the difficulties of being young (or eternally young) and falling in love for the first time.
…Rebecca Benson in particular was outstandingly unsettling as Eli…
Let the Right One In explores difficult themes of alcoholism, bullying and fractured family relationships through the eyes of Eli and Oskar. Rebecca Benson in particular was outstandingly unsettling as Eli, managing to be both chilling in her agile and swift execution of those that threatened her security, and also an incredibly sympathetic character as you willed her to find some sort of happiness with Oskar and peace within herself.
This is a production that grips you and doesn’t let go, as it ratchets up the tension right from the first scene until the heart-stopping denouement. There is certainly no lack of blood as the death toll continues to rise, the splash of red making a bold contrast against the bright white of the snowy stage. This is a brave and shocking production to stage in the festive season, and it’s well worth trying to sink your teeth into a ticket.
Let the Right One In runs until the 21 December.
Ticket prices vary: £32, £22, £16, £12