A spate of sinister killings has taken place in the woods in deep winter when Oskar, bullied and lonely, meets Eli. She seems like just another teenager. Another teenager who can only meet at night, never goes to school and seems to belong to another time…
Dark and thrilling, the National Theatre of Scotland's adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In is a visceral experience, overseen by a powerhouse creative team including award-winning director John Tiffany and associate director Steven Hoggett.
The dream-like quality of the tall, silver trees and lighting drops the audience into a half-world, teetering on a knife-edge. It's a stylized production, where the action is punctuated by balletic movement and the occasional falling flakes of snow, underscoring all that is lonely in this town. An imaginary band of boys joins Oskar in his perfectly choreographed daydreams. When finished, they melt into the trees like so much snow on a warm palm.
It's the physicality above all that defines this production; the scent of Eli, the overflowing blood. The tension crawls up your spine like Eli drawing out a morse code dash ever so slowly… until there is a thrash of strings and whatever you might have been waiting for – expecting even – still grabs you by the throat. The audience reacts in one breath throughout, as synchronized as the movement on stage.
But despite the darkness, there are some sweet laughs to be had in this vampire coming-of-age story; genuine moments when you can believe Eli is just a girl and Oskar is just a boy, exploring the idea of ‘love' for the first time. The cast are tremendous. Susan Vidler projects a cringe-inducingly clingy mother. Rebecca Benson effortlessly captures Eli's otherworldly qualities in her transformation between ethereal and animalistic. Martin Quinn is vulnerable but vibrant as Oskar, but his relative innocence is devastating in the light of Ewan Stewart's Hakan – the man keeping Eli alive in a somewhat twisted lover/protector role.
Jack Thorne's adaptation for the stage delights and horrifies in equal measures, and it will linger in the mind like a terrible dream long after lights-up.