Black Swan's Let the Right One In: There Will Be Blood
What do you get when you mash a story of teen angst, candy shops and vampires together? The answer may just lie with Jack Thorne’s stage adaptation of Swedish novelist John Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In (and the 2008 film of the same name). A simultaneously lavish yet raw production, Black Swan State Theatre Company’s latest show is startlingly funny, confronting and heartbreaking in equal parts; the sort of viewing experience that will grip you and cocoon you, alongside those among you, in the threads of relatability.
The premise of the story is simple: an awkward and frequently bullied teen, Oskar, befriends a mysterious girl called Eli in the wake of a series of mysterious murders. It is only as their unique friendship progresses that Oskar realises Eli and her father’s connection with the crimes, and that his companion may in fact not be human at all, but a blood-feasting vampire. Both outcasts in their own ways, the bond between Oskar and Eli soon becomes something that transgresses the danger in Eli’s true nature, and they must learn to navigate the often painful yet universal road of adolescence together.
(Images by Daniel J Grant)
The performances in the play are nothing short of exemplary. Ian Michael skilfully brings to life an Oskar with so much heart and adorable awkwardness that you can’t help but want to just hug him at times—particularly in some of the more relentless bullying scenes. On that note, Rory O’Keefe and Clarence Ryan are frighteningly believable as aforementioned bullies Jonny and Micke, and Alison van Reeken as Mum beautifully portrays the desperation of a mother whose tremendous love for Oskar leads her to worry constantly. The standout of the cast is Sophia Forrest as Eli, who brings an other-worldliness to her role that is often so difficult, particularly for younger performers, to pull off; one of of eerie contortion, jumping from innocent to monstrous in a matter of moments. Stuart Halusz, who plays Eli’s ‘father’, brings to the role a quality of uncomfortable possessiveness and obsession that leaves your skin crawling.
Bruce McKinven’s set design of Let the Right One In is perhaps my favourite amongst all the plays I’ve reviewed this year, and director Clare Watson has done a fabulous job in using the vertical staging to bring added meaning to the show. Upon first inspection, the stage is made up of what looks like a 3 by 3 stacking of giant shoe boxes. These are used throughout the show to represent different rooms within an apartment block, areas of Oskar’s school and even parts of the neighbourhood, with the partitioning between rooms giving the overall atmosphere a certain degree of loneliness that seems fitting. The supernatural aspects of the play have been realised with masterful graphics and projections upon the stage (courtesy of Richard Vabre), framed by eerie yet tasteful sound effects engineered by Rachael Dease.
The startling thing about Let the Right One In is that we all know at least one of the characters in our own world; perhaps we may even see hints of them within ourselves. The strangeness of Eli, the loneliness of Oskar, the anxiety of Mum—these figures are not strangers. Throw together a few vampires, murders, bullying episodes and some midnight lolly-hunting adventures, and we get a haunting exploration of the human condition packed within the play. This is a play that will make you laugh, cry, dance (perhaps all at the same time) and think long and hard about what you’ve seen long after the curtain falls—simply not to be missed.