Beloved Swedish novel turned film Let The Right One In has been brought to Dublin in the form of a stage adaptation. Neglected at home and bullied at school, vulnerable teenager Oskar is in desperate need of a friend. The arrival of the mysterious Eli to his neighbourhood gives him an instant lift but proves to be another relationship with complications attached to it. That’s putting it mildly.
Eli is no ordinary teenage girl. For a start, as she puts it, she’s not a girl. She’s something else. Yet she isn’t lacking when it comes to humanity in her feelings for Oskar. It’s a coming-of-age vampire love story with horror elements that were always going to make for interesting viewing.
Let The Right One In achieves its other-worldly objective from the get-go in its Abbey Theatre run. The stunning set – designed by Christine Jones along with lighting designer Chahine Yavroyan and special effects designer Jeremy Chernwick – simply takes your breath away. Not only does it succeed in replicating snowy Sweden, it also managed to include other environments – like Oskar’s apartment and Hakan’s hospital room – in a casual way that maintained the feeling of a hardworking sleepy town. Lighting changes were key to this mood change as well as the intensity of the spectacle. Audience members are warned at the start of scares in store. We’re told that a few scenes will elicit gasps. One may well give you a heart attack. I had made the mistake of relaxing into my seat at one point when I was jolted out of my slumber by something I don’t usually associate with the theatre: A jump scare.
The cast performs well with much of the heavy lifting left to the young leads Craig Connolly (Oskar) and Katie Honan (Eli). Honan brought tremendous physicality to the role of Eli. Jonny’s (Jamie Hallahan) taunts of bitch and piggy sound weird when delivered in an Irish accent while the choreography felt strange and awkward at times. It didn’t really work. The interpretive stabbing dance was a prime example. Nick Dunning brings a new lease of life to Hakan, Eli’s guardian and scorned former lover doomed to grow old and feeble while she remains forever young. A stage adaptation of Peter Pan is among director John Tiffany’s body of work and he mentions his fascination with ‘infinite heartbreak’ in the programme notes. “It’s a terrifying prospect as you are destined to witness your partner get old and pass away over and over again,” he says. This is the closest we get to a compelling strand. Otherwise, it is a multi-sensual extravaganza with the crew using the tools at their disposal to create scenes of horror and gore. The steel climbing frame was an extraordinarily versatile addition and its secrets baffled the audience with some overheard pondering how it worked in the aisles afterwards.
Let The Right One In runs in the Abbey Theatre until January 6th. Book your tickets here.