Latest Review – Let The Right One In [Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester]


Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Until Saturday 19th November 2022

Every now and then you hear about a new theatre production, immediately get your hopes up for that production, and pray it will ultimately live up to your anticipation when the time comes. Opening just in time for Halloween, the Royal Exchange Theatre’s new staging of Jack Thorne’s adaptation of Let the Right One In, based on the Swedish novel and film of the same name by Jon Ajvide Lindqvist, is everything you hope it might be, and more. Bold, thrilling, fully immersive theatre with inspired staging, flawless production values and a truly superb cast.

Combining a tender, coming-of-age romance which a chilling, vampire horror tale, Let the Right One In is the story of 12-year old Oskar and his poignant friendship with his mysterious new neighbour, Eli, in a bleak, wintry Stockholm suburb some time in the 1980s.

Oskar is bullied and humiliated at school and lonely at home, spending most of his time in his own company either frequenting the local sweet shop or by the playground outside his home. When he discovers Eli in the playground one night, he finds comfort in her company, and what begins as a rather awkward friendship soon blossoms into something much more meaningful, until, of course, Eli’s unsettling truth slowly begins to unravel.

Joint Artistic Director Bryony Shanahan’s thrilling, visceral production is magnificent and proves hugely effective in the Exchange’s in-the-round space. There are a few gruesome, jump-scare type moments but Shanahan is careful to steer clear of gratuitous shock horror in favour of a much deeper and much more moving narrative, highlighting the poignant, human elements of the story that feels more in keeping with the delicate, slow-burning tone of the austere source. There’s also plenty of humour too which might seem a little strange, but the unpredictability of some of the lines meets with raucous laughter on more than one occasion.

Pete MacHale and Rhian Blundell are excellent as the naive, vulnerable Oskar and the complex and conflicted Eli, respectively, leading a strong ensemble including Andrew Sheridan, Anthony Aje, Daon Broni, Darren Kuppan, Stefan Race, Mercè Ribot, and Kyle Rowe.

There is an awful lot going on in this production. There are numerous set/design elements that need to be wheeled on and off during the various scene changes but the cast are well-drilled, the whole process feels incredibly fluid and Shanahan maintains a good pace throughout. The in-the-round setting is ideal and allows for a continuous flow during the myriad transitions, plus background action often continues outside the main theatre space for added immersion.

A unique horror story with a difference and a stunning production that deserves to be remembered and talked about for many years to come. The Royal Exchange has really raised the bar with this one and it just seems a shame the production has such a limited run.

Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.

Final Performance at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester: Saturday 19th November 2022.

For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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