Originally published in Bristol Post.
It’s only mid-February but we may already have a show of the year on our hands with Bristol Old Vic Theatre Schools exquisite production of Let The Right One In. Brutal, terrifying and tender, Marcus Romer’s production catches all the winter chill of its Nordic setting, its gothic horror gradually intensifying as its young protagonists Oskar and Eli discover common ground in a small little town where a spate of murders leaves everyone on edge.
For those who have read his book or seen the terrific Swedish film by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Jack Thorne’s stage adaptation sticks faithfully to its origins. Oskar and Eli are two faces of the same coin, both misfits in a world that has no time for them, both preyed on by parental figures: Oskar and his alcoholic, love-starved Mum, and Eli with a lecherous older man who kills on her behalf. But while Oskar is a twelve-year-old boy tackling bullies and distant parents, Eli is both young and old, of this world and another, she needs to be invited in before she can enter and has a hunger that only blood can satisfy.
Romer’s production in the round of Circomedia has a simple but effective playground mound by Alana Ashley that also doubles as home, a wood cabin, and for its bloody body-strewn climax a public swimming bath. It judges its many moods well; cold clinical killings turn into tentative first steps into friendship, a slow, sweet dance to Charles Trenet’s’ La Mer, leads into a violent fight with hockey sticks (special shout out to fight director Jonathan Howell’s who assembles varying brutal assemblages with balletic grace). Soaked in blood but with barely a blood capsule in use, its claret is signified by laser projections, pieces of silk and clever contrasts in costume. It’s as if Caravaggio had composed the images, classical and violence meshed in one.
As Eli, Anna-Kate Golding is sensational, innocent and world-weary, her gaze always looking beyond her subject to some forgotten past or yet to be future, her voice a sing-song yet distant, many lifetimes of refusing to be let in coming home to root. She tackles the space like a spider, languorous one moment, scuttling at speed for a kill the next. Technique and heart combine to bring beating life to the undead.
Shane David-Joseph’s Oskar grows from scared little boy to a man as the dark realities of an adult’s world come to bear. As his tormentor, Tom Briggs is all hateful public-school bully, while Freddy Sawyer as the creepy paternal figure in Eli’s life and Louis J Rhone’s rather useless gym teacher also make telling contributions.
This is a show you really should let in.
Let The Right One In plays at Circomedia until the 23 February.