Review by Anja Bless
An adaptation by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) of the award-winning film and novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is a supernatural teen romance that doesn’t shy away from the macabre. Now showing at Darlinghurst Theatre Company, Let the Right One In follows Oskar (Will McDonald), a bullied teen who is desperate for friendship, and Eli (Sebrina Thornton-Walker), the flirtatious and mysterious girl who has just moved in next door in the context of a murder rampage through their small town.
Directed by Alexander Berlage, Let the Right One In explores the lengths we will go for love and the power of connection. Will McDonald’s Oskar is youthful, naïve, and charming. His comedic timing alongside Thornton-Walker’s Eli had the audience at times in stitches, bringing much needed light to an otherwise darkly themed show. Thornton-Walker’s physicality as Eli is also something to behold, she is deft and agile, leaning into the odd and mysterious but intelligent and empathetic nature of her character. Brilliant comedic moments were also brought Matthew Whittet, dealing with prop mishaps with exceptional professionalism and calm. Josh Price also brought freshness to each of his roles, an endearing and towering presence on stage.
The set by Isabel Hudson was akin to an abattoir, appropriate for the grisly murders that build up throughout the show. The sense of foreboding and angst is built up also by the combination of talents of Trent Suidgeest (Lighting Designer), James Peter Brown (Composer), and Daniel Herten (Sound and Video Designer). Their efforts helped to evoke the thriller nature of the production which stands in contrast to the childish romance blossoming between Oskar and Eli. Although there were times when these effects were perhaps a little heavy handed. There were also a few hiccups with stage effects and props which will likely be smoothed out as the show moves through its production, this will help heighten the more thrilling scenes. What was perhaps ill-considered was the choice for all characters to have Swedish accents, per the setting of the original novel. There were a number of times where actors’ accents dropped or changed, and many felt caricature-ish. The Swedish setting was not central to the plot, and this could have been a simple issue to avoid. Finally, while the contrast between Eli and Oskar’s light and fun romance makes an enjoyable contrast to the grisly murders of the first act, by the second as the violence escalates, there comes a sense that the scale and impact of the violence is not duly acknowledged by the characters and therefore begins to feel gratuitous. The show stands in an uncertain place, not quite dark comedy, nor absurdist romance, but not quite horror either.
These critiques aside, Let the Right One In is a fun and enjoyable show, with a dark and moody edge. It is well-produced and well-performed, a great night out for anyone who enjoys thrillers, romance, and more than a hint of mystery and the supernatural.
Image Credit: Robert Catto