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Review | Let The Right One In | Royal Exchange | 07/11/2022

Photo: Johan Persson

The Royal Exchange is fast becoming one of my favourite theatres in the North West. This time I visited to watch ‘Let The Right One In’, based on John Ajvide Lindqvist's 2004 book and 2008 film of the same name.

Having not seen the film nor read the book, I went in knowing little other than it was a vampire related teenage coming of age story. This however is no Twilight saga. It was bloody fantastic, bloody being the operative word. The Royal Exchange weren’t joking when they gave blood splattering warnings on certain seats! This show is not for the faint hearted and I would recommend perspective audience members read the content warnings on the official website before booking a ticket (Let The Right One In - Royal Exchange Theatre).

I rarely find horror gripping in a theatrical setting, often it can be more comical than anything else. However, this production is a clear exception. It weaves genuine jumpy moments with slow burning suspense throughout. Within the opening minutes audible gasps are heard as audience members gasp at a gruesome murder scene. I won’t ruin the shock factor of this, but I will say this is where the blood splattering caveats were first realised! This is not the only murder in the story as we soon learn that several murders have taken place recently.

We meet Oskar (Pete MacHale), a troubled teen who is bullied by his peers and has little solitude at home with his alcoholic mother. MacHale plays Oskar with vulnerable innocence. His adolescent awkwardness around relationships and trepidation in getting changed in the school changing rooms takes the audience back to the mindset of being a teenager. Oskar meets Eli (Rhian Blundell) with whom he begins a unique and poignant friendship. Blundell stole the show with her intense and convincing portrayal of Eli, jumping between the roles of murderous vampire and someone with heart who the audience genuinely care about. An honourable mention has to go to Stefan Race as Jonny, as Oskar’s constantly punishing bully. There really was no weak link in the entire cast. It was nice to hear an assortment of regional accents, which helped make everything that bit more real whilst injecting some genuine humour.

The lighting was some of the best I have seen in recent productions. Lighting designer Joshua Pharo cleverly used lighting to zone different areas of the stage, in various ways to help better visualise the space without using set pieces. Ingenious use of lighting was even used to have the audience believe there was a swimming pool in the centre of the stage in the closing moments of the play. Pete Malkins sound design was also as haunting as you would hope, with surround sound being used to full effect throughout to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

This brutal production is not for faint hearted. However, those who like a darker tale will not be disappointed in this production which has as much charm as it does horror.

Let The Right One In is at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester until 19/11/2022.


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