Sunday 8 June 2014

Swedish Vampires on Stage

Let the Right One In — sorry, Låt den rätte komma in — was a Swedish film. It was written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, based on his own novel. And it was directed by Tomas Alfredson, who would go on to direct Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, one of my favourite movies of all time.

Without beating about the bush, Let the Right One In is a vampire movie. It tells the story of a lonely, bullied pre-teen boy, Oskar, who befriends what appears to be a lonely pre-teen girl called Eli. But I bet you can guess what Eli really is.

They develop a rather touching relationship and, in a mindblowing sequence at the end, Eli saves Oskar from the bullies. It's a terrific little film and made quite an impression. Inevitably an English language remake followed. It was produced by the resurrected Hammer films, written and directed by the talented Matt Reeves and was re-titled Let Me In.

It was a good film, but there was something lacking compared to the original, as exmplified by the duller and more obvious choice of title. (a title which, incidentally, refers to the old vampire myth that you have to invite them in before they can cross the threshold. And bite you.)

But you can't keep a good vampire down, and now Let the Right One In is back, with it's proper title intact, as of all things a West End stage production. Adapted by writer Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany, the action has been relocated from a deprived semi-urban wintery Sweden to a ditto wintery Scotland, which makes very good sense.

Indeed, Jack Thorne's adaptation is smart, economical and full of good choices. It is also a miracle of compression, bringing an astonishing amount of the film into a stage production with a single set. An impressive feat.

That single set is also a miracle of compression. Consisting of an eerie forest of tall trees, other spaces are illuminated or defined by props as required. There is also a playground climbing frame which brilliantly doubles in a surprising way at the end of the play and — astonishingly — allows the swimming pool climax of the movie to be reproduced on the stage.

But, despite being impressed by the set, the acting, the staging and intermittently caught up in the plight of the bullied Oskar, I remained uninvolved and unmoved by the action. I was even a little bored.

Tremendous imagination and effort have gone into attempting to replicate the narrative contours of the original film on stage. And miraculously they've succeeded. Yet I walked out of the theatre feeling neither particularly entertained nor engaged.

In the end it irresistibly brought to mind a quote by Dr Johnson: it was "like a dog walking on its hind legs. It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all." 

Sorry folks, I know this production is highly regarded. Maybe I just caught a duff matinee.

(Image credits: The movie stills of the Swedish film are from Ace Show Biz. The Let Me in posters are also from that same useful site. The Swedish poster is from Fan Pop. The photo of the groovy stage set is from the Beautiful Dundee blog. The theatre poster — bloody difficult to get a halfway decent image, this was the best I could do — is from the Apollo Theatre site.)

1 comment:

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