Venue: Eternity Playhouse (Darlinghurst NSW), Oct 7 – Nov 20, 2022
Playwright: Jack Thorne (based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist)
Director: Alexander Berlage
Cast: Stephen Anderton, Callan Colley, Will McDonald, Eddie Orton, Josh Price, Monica Sayers, Sebrina Thornton-Walker, Matthew Whittet
Images by Robert Catto
Things are going terribly for 12-year-old Oskar. His mother is a raging alcoholic, and the bullying at school is interminable. Meeting Eli late one night, may seem to indicate a change for the better, but falling in love with a vampire comes with major drawbacks. Jack Thorne’s adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel and film Let the Right One In, attempts to transpose an unorthodox story of young love to the stage, complete with all the hallmark features of a genre piece.
Under the directorship of Alexander Berlage, Let the Right One In becomes an unexpected concoction of romantic-comedy with horror elements. There are moments of gore to be sure, but a quirky sense of humour dominates the staging. It is a compelling experience, enjoyable especially for its unusual tackling of the supernatural, although the confluence of humour with revulsion, seems a tricky one to resolve.
Trent Suidgeest’s sensual lighting design is highly attractive, but can sometimes seem at odds with the comedy being performed. There are competing tones being presented, each one detracting from the other. Daniel Herten’s sound and music too, work consistently to build tension for something resolutely scary, seemingly unaware of the show’s strong tendencies toward the funny. Isabel Hudson’s set design is appropriately cold and stark, depicting somewhere appearing a cross between hospitals and abattoirs, with shiny surfaces that keeps the chill in our spines. Hudson’s costumes are evocative of Sweden, from whence the tale originates, but the main characters never really look persuasively like children.
Actor Will McDonald is very endearing as Oskar, perfectly conveying the innocence of his character, whilst offering a rich interpretation, of someone going through something impossibly intense. The challenging task of portraying Eli, who is both a small child, and a phantasm over a century old, is taken on by Sebrina Thornton-Walker, who brings a satisfying sense of macabre physicality to the role. Supporting players, Stephen Anderton, Callan Colley, Eddie Orton, Josh Price and Monica Sayers, are spirited in their embrace of the show’s absurdist dimensions, each one leaving a strong impression with the idiosyncrasies they are able to find, for the various personalities that we meet.
It is a strange phenomenon, that people should pay good money to make themselves feel scared. It is perhaps an opportunity for us to release, that which has to be psychologically suppressed, in order that we may face daily life with an attitude of normalcy. The possibilities of afterlife are hard to discount, for the unknown has the ability to take on infinite configurations, and the terror of death makes our imagination of that aftermath go to the darkest. Hence it is easy to believe the worst, but only in chosen occasions can we indulge in those frightful meditations.