May 08, 2014

Let the Right One In at the Apollo Theatre

             The Apollo Theatre has made a quick and innovative recovery after its ceiling collapsed during a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (reviewed here) earlier this year. In its place, a mystical purple-blue sky has appeared, with a full moon, twinkling stars, and elongated tree branches. Much more pressing than the issue of a new ceiling, the new concern has become the collapsing of boundaries with the stage rendition of Let the Right One In, a National Theatre of Scotland production. The book, a cult classic written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, has also been adapted into Swedish and American films, both executed with severe precision.

The Apollo Theatre's dreamy new ceiling  
             For all of you theatregoers, there are an abundance of tasty dining options available to you before your show starts, conveniently situated near your theatre. Luckily for my friend and me, T.G.I. Friday’s is very close to the Apollo Theatre, which is near the Piccadilly Circus tube station. In fact, we even ate there on a Friday, which was unplanned, but clearly befitting. I suppose we had to quench our thirst before watching a blood-thirsty vampire on stage…Trust me, nothing beats London at night when the streets are abuzz with activity and restaurants are filled with fellow theatre patrons. Soak it up! It’s all a part of the grand theatre experience.

T.G.I. Friday's anyone? Don't skimp on the brownies!

 With a nod to vampires, and with specific emphasis on a female vampire at that, Let the Right One In does feature the macabre, but emphasizes an overarching theme of forbidden, transient love. Where Edward Cullen from the Twilight saga has become a household name, Eli (Rebecca Benson), our young yet strong main character in Let the Right One In is a feisty addition to the vampire market. Vampires are not all about sparkles or sexual appeal, as mass media romanticizes them as of late. Eli is animalistic, sometimes smells funny according to her new friend Oskar (Martin Quinn), and has an androgynous nature. No sparkles here then.

The play does not shy away from the ravage beast that Eli attempts to hide inside of her. No, we are subjected to a full-on blood bath, with Eli’s ravenous urges leading to stained snow, sullied faces, and inevitable carnage. Although, the play’s program makes a good point that perhaps the true monsters are the bullies. In the story, Oskar is the victim of many taunts from his classmates, which makes for uncomfortable ensuing scenes. Bullying is a product of society and the people that inhabit it. Eli is a vampire and it is in her nature to kill, but the cruelty of man is the most unsavory and unsatisfactory of all tastes.

             The stage set is chillingly lonely. A very convincing substitute for snow is scattered across the landscape, while vast, barren trees stand at attention. A single climbing frame is the main focus, but even its cold, metal structure can be equated with frigidity. Oskar exchanges a Rubik’s cube with Eli, which injects color into this otherwise colorless milieu. The Apollo Theatre always yields outstanding acoustics, and this play is no exception. Let the Right One In incorporates instances of modern dance, which marries up with the modern music that extends the loneliness into a soundscape. The music finds itself nestled in amongst the trees, which are used as tender dance partners for the cast, and winds it way up into the rafters until it dissipates into deafening silence.

The cast of Let the Right One In performs the tree dance sequences, photo courtesy of the Let the Right One In production 
 At first glance, it appears that the characters in this grim tale are just as desolate and emotionally devoid as their surroundings. However, Eli and Oskar’s innocent relationship exists as the central theme of the play and in direct contrast to the necessary horror. Eli’s former lover, Hakan (Clive Mendus), who kills for her and supports her, pours acid on his face when he thinks he will be caught for his misdeeds. Although a rather extreme form of love, love knows no end and certainly is reciprocated in Eli’s “generosity.” She ends Hakan’s life for him by doing what she knows best – draining blood.

The pivotal climbing frame where Oskar and Eli (Rebecca Benson) first meet, photo courtesy of the Let the Right One In production
             The closing scene of the play is a further illustration of this unfaltering love. Oskar is preparing to do some laps at the swimming pool when the boys who have been bullying him show up, one of them accompanied by his older brother. You see, our underdog Oskar dared to bite back and harmed one of the boys, who have returned to teach him a lesson. I was particularly curious as to how this scene would be recreated, because it is one worthy of an accurate translation. The brother, turning a knife over in his hand, gives Oskar an ultimatum: hold his breath for three minutes underwater or else Oskar will be without his eye. That’s when the climbing frame slowly started to swivel around.

Oskar's (Martin Quinn) bullies (Angus Miller and Graeme Dalling) pose a serious threat, photo courtesy of the Let the Right One In production 
             The back of the climbing frame quickly converted to its new purpose as a tank, filling with water as soon as Oskar hopped inside. I was honestly shocked at what was taking place before my eyes. Quinn, who plays Oskar, actually remained underneath the water for what seemed like a painstakingly long time. During that time, Eli reappears on the scene, attacking and killing all of Oskar’s tormentors one by one. When he surfaces, Eli is just whom he wants to see, bloodstains and all. Oskar always accepted Eli for who or what she was. Who would have thought that it would take the love story of a vampire and a young boy to clue us in to the life lesson of acceptance?

             Be sure to let the right one in and book your tickets for the show here

Photo courtesy of the Let the Right One In production