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LET THE RIGHT ONE IN @ Harbour Theatre gets 7.5/10


Let The Right One In 
@ Harbour Theatre

Sunday, October 4, 2020

7.5/10

There’s something about Scandinavia that really lends itself to the horror genre: long, bleak, frozen winters, dark woods, and sparse isolating landscapes provide plenty of scope for all the darkest horrors ancient Europe can provide. This atmosphere is partly why Let The Right One In makes such a great story. Based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist and the subsequent movie, Jack Thorne’s stage play keeps up the atmosphere of isolation that really makes this work, and Harbour Theatre’s production does a good job of keeping those feelings alive.

Oskar (Charlie Young) is a lonely, awkward boy, isolated from friends and family, bullied and just trying to make it through the winter alive. Other forces are at play, however, with brutal murders building panic in his small Swedish town, and the school bullies making his life a living hell. Things start to look up for Oskar when he meets a strange girl, Eli (Talia O’Brien). At first, a friendship looks unlikely, not least of all because Eli tells Oskar they simply can’t be friends, but as the days pass they do connect and become very close. Eli’s reason for avoiding friendship is revealed as time goes on, when it becomes apparent she is a vampire. Oskar, however, takes this in his stride and all he really cares about is the girl he’s falling for.

Young acting as Oskar at first seems to be played very young, and while well-acted, does make one really question the character Oskar’s age. The same can be said for O’Brien as Eli, however, as the play progressed this began to feel right, and both of the characters and their relationship becomes very charming: one couldn’t help but root for them at the end. Eli also felt more mature when dealing with her adult familiar/faux-father Hakan, which felt appropriate and worked well to separate the potentially ancient vampire Eli from Eli the child.

The other two standout performances were Nathan Di Giovanni as Micke, and Ethan Thomas as Jonny, the school bullies. Both of their performances were menacing and took one back to some unsettling times from childhood. Thomas plays the incredibly evil, “don’t care if he dies,” head bully Jonny scarily well, while Di Giovanni as Micke was the perfect henchman, egging Jonny on to torture Oskar and doing as he’s told. The real beauty in Di Giovanni’s performance, however, was the transition between someone who actually cared about Oskar, trying to warn him Jonny was on the warpath, and the “big, bad bully” too scared of Jonny to stand up to him or at least not go along with him. You could really feel the tension as he wrestled with his conscience when it was really going down. The rest of the cast put in fine performances, making this a tense and thrilling show.

Harbour Theatre used multiple techniques to keep the feelings of anxiety and suspense alive, with perfectly matched music and effects, smoke machines, blood-producing knives and what one can only surmise were blood packs, utilised perfectly by the cast to keep their audience on the edge of their seats.

A thick fog filled the auditorium as we entered, immediately setting the scene and expectations. Having the audience swim through the foggy tendrils on the way to their seats was a clever and inspired touch, preparing them for what was to come. Unfortunately, the smoke machines did not keep running through to the opening of the show, and while keeping them going a full five minutes might have been impractical, it would have really kept the level of tension and anticipation the opening deserved. They get a good workout throughout the rest of the show, however, and always furthered the plot.

Now maybe it’s just this reviewer, but good horror needs a steady flow of blood to keep things going, and this production has it in droves. It feels so much more real when blood flows down, as you see a character get hurt, rather than having to imagine it happening. It was especially gratifying to see blood appear spontaneously on Eli when she shows Oskar what happens to her when she enters a house uninvited. The explosive blood along with the sound effects and lightning flashes really made this scene hit hard.

Throats were also slit in the making of this production and the use of blood-producing knives was so well done, that it always looked super realistic, making all the horror-loving hearts in the audience squeal with joy. The latex work is also well worth noting as are all the skills of the technical and special effects team, especially Vanessa Gudgeon, Duncan Shaw and Keeley Finucane. It was very impressive, and a big part of the reason this show worked so well.

Overall, Harbour Theatre’s production of Let The Right One In was a really good, spooky time. Director Jo Sterkenburg has brought together a talented cast and given them excellent direction to ensure the audience went home just a little more thrilled – and maybe scared – than they were before.

VERONICA GRAHAM

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