Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s production of Let The Right One In presents a considered and superb take on the cult classic
Image: Robert Catto.
It’s no easy feat presenting a love story between a vampire and a human. Over the past decade or so, there’s been countless films, novels and television productions that have tackled the trope, all contributing their own creative force. Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s superb production of Let The Right One In tackles Jack Thorne’s (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) adaptation of John Ajvide’s 2004 novel of the same name, transporting us to an icy Sweden which serves as a playground for falling in love, blood-thirst and revenge.
The source material itself, Ajvide’s novel, has been adapted for the stage and screen before. It’s most notable adaptation is Tomas Alfredon’s 2008 film, met with widespread critical acclaim, and more recently served as the inspiration for a SHOWTIME original series.
As we’re lured into the world of Let The Right One In with a harrowing opening scene, we soon meet Oskar (William McDonald), a 12 year old boy experiencing loneliness and isolation due to being plagued by school bullies and an equally as hard home life. This all changes when he meets the mysterious Eli, who moves in next door with her father. Whilst she initially shuns any thought of building a friendship, feelings blossom between the two. Falling in love can be hard, falling in love with a vampire makes it all the more harder.
McDonald creates a relatable and compelling character that the audience empathises with. His emotional range is wide, meandering between vulnerability and purity juxtaposed by an endearing sense of mischief. The innocence that fills the character throughout the productions earlier scenes evolves throughout, provoking the emergence of a strong young man by the time the cast take their final bow, allowing the audience to go on this journey with Oskar. Sebrina Thornton-Walker’s portrayal of Eli is chillingly brilliant. Her skills in movement helped to create a fluid and sometimes jagged physicality of the character, encompassing the presence of an other worldly figure. There was a clear distinction between the ‘girl Oskar met’ and the formidable vampire that has roamed the earth for centuries. Her sweet demeanour and high-pitched voice, that we as an audience experienced when she would converse with Oskar in the courtyard, would turn dark and gravelly in moments where she unleashed her lust for blood and horror.
Staying true to the source material, the entire ensemble take on Swedish accents - some more successfully than others. McDonald’s steady performance leads the way, capturing a childlike wonder in his vocal tone and precise annunciation. Mostly maintaining its strength, Thornton-Walker’s take on the accent sometimes leans into Slavic territory whilst the majority of the productions supporting cast members were able to keep up. Stephen Anderson, Callan Colley and Josh Price offer wonderful performances in their respective supporting roles, all helping to carry the story throughout the play and adding another layer of depth and context to the production. Colley and Price are overwhelmingly frightening as Oskar’s tormentors. Josh Price, Monica Sayers, and Matthew Whittet do well with carrying multiple characters, making specific choices to differentiate them.
Alexander Berlage’s direction worked wonderfully with Trent Suidgeest’s strong lighting design and Daniel Herten’s accompanying sound design. All three woven together creates an unsettling tension that radiates throughout the theatre, successfully capturing the essence present within the Swedish town our characters find themselves in. Aurate tones and strobe lighting flooded the room when Eli would feed, directly contrasting the cooler clinical tones that usually shrouded the stage. One potentially jarring element is the set design. Taking on the form of a meat processing facility, Isabel Hudson’s design plays into the horror of Hakan’s slaughtered victims to feed Eli and Oskar’s bullies taunting him by calling him piggy. Whilst it thematically ties in with the content, the play vastly takes place between Oskar’s home and school, and the town’s forest. There’s also a contained space on stage, which is used for more intimate scenes like Eli visiting Hakan in hospital, or Oskar hiding from his bullies. It’s also used as the wall between Oskar and Eli’s apartments, where they send each other messages via morse code which serves as an indicator of the strengthening of their relationship.
Let The Right One In shines a light on our own anxieties as a society. Longing to be accepted, hoping to find a love that will last forever and finding something to hold on to when cloaked in darkness. There’s heartwarming moments that are thrown into disarray by heart stopping moments, all of which play into a hauntingly beautiful love story that leaves its audience hoping for a brighter horizon for Oskar and Eli than when we first met the budding duo.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
CLOSES NOVEMBER 20
Saturday Matinee: 2pm