Royal Exchange, Manchester – until 19 November 2022
Since the Royal Exchange announced their new season back at the end of 2021, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this production. Adapted for the stage by Jack Thorne, Let The Right One In is everything I envisioned it could be and much more. Suitably timed for Halloween, the performance delivers – it’s brutal, jumpy and at times, quite bloody – but it’s also threaded with innocence, sweet humour and heart.
Based on the 2008 Swedish cult film, which in turn was inspired by John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel, Let The Right One In centres around the burgeoning relationship between a 12-year-old boy, Oskar (Pete MacHale) and a centuries-old vampire child, Eli (Rhian Blundell).
Set in Blackeburg, a suburb of Stockholm, where a series of murders have taken place, Oskar is struggling with his own problems. Experiencing relentless harassment at school, he finds escapism in stealing sweets from his local shop and imagining his revenge on the bullies. His reenactments on the climbing frame close to where he lives attract the attention of his new neighbour, Eli. Although Oskar notices that Eli smells a little bit strange, the two find a common ground in their otherness and a deep friendship begins to develop.
Charismatic MacHale gives a wonderfully childlike performance as Oskar and Blundell plays Eli with an untamed charm, almost like a wild animal – intensely wide-eyed, claw-like hands and limby; both utterly compelling. Directed by Bryony Shanahan, they clamber on the climbing frame, communicate by morse code and share genuinely tender moments together.
The production shines in its pacing and design, which really utilises the theatre’s in-the-round staging. Amelia Jane Hankin’s design sees large props are wheeled on and off stage – large wooden boxes, a confectionary kiosk and a climbing frame, and different settings are intelligently created including an icy forest, Oskar’s bedroom and a swimming pool. Sound design by Pete Malkin builds tension – from haunting melodies to retro synths – it all feels otherworldly, though nostalgic, in the same vein as Stranger Things.
The show makes the most of the horror genre too – right from the get-go. Expect squirting stage blood, strobe lighting and proper jumpy moments. Let The Right One In is bloody unmissable.
Let The Right One In runs at the Royal Exchange, Manchester until 19 November 2022.
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