The Apollo Theatre has risen from the grave after last year’s ceiling collapse, and under the moonlit temporary canopy of its ceiling, the National Theatre of Scotland’s elegant, frostbitten take on modern vampire classic this has been resurrected to brilliant effect.
Jack Thorne’s script for ‘Let the Right One In’ is an unfussy take on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, more successful than either of the film versions, locating the action in a frozen middle-ground between Sweden and Dundee. The cast speak in Scottish accents but the props and the layout of the isolated woodland town seem distinctly Scandinavian.
Thorne brings young Oskar’s social awkwardness to the fore, linking him to an unknowing continuity of remote and angry young men who find themselves ignored by their parents and scorned by their peers. One of several brilliant dance-like interludes in John Tiffany’s gorgeous production sees Oskar practising thrusts and swipes with a stolen knife as the woods behind him fill with other boys rehearsing the same feeble retributions.
Martin Quinn is a stunning Oskar, gawky, self-defeating and petulant; a natural target for the bullying he received until the strong, magnetic Eli enters his life. The young vampiress is played with winning strangeness by Rebecca Benson, and if her singsong delivery occasionally grates her physicality hits a feline sweet-spot between balletic grace and predatory tension.
From the icy electronics of Ólafur Arnalds’s score to Chrstine Jones’s snow-dusted woodland under the sodium glare of a streetlight, 'Let the Right One In' blends the imagery of the European fairy-tale tradition with something more urban and less campfire-cosy. It’s staged with great confidence, with a set full of tricks and surprises, and refuses to shy away from the gruesome cost of Eli’s friendship. The forest looks a little less dark and deep than it did last year at the Royal Court, but that's a minor quibble when everything looks and feels so enchanting.
One of the undoubted highlights of 2013, ‘Let the Right One In’s presence on the West End is a cause for celebration – it’s a full-blooded, gorgeously realised love story that’s retains its humanity even in its most feral moments.