John Ajvide Lindquist’s 2004 novel Let the Right One In is arguably up there with the best that dark Scandinavian fiction has to offer. This vampire story of social exclusion, hopelessness and, ultimately, love was made into a Swedish language film in 2008, ensuring it has become one of the most popular of Nordic Noir. Director Marcus Romer brings Let the Right One In to Bristol’s Circomedia and gives it a treatment that retains the all chilliness of Lindquist’s original writing but with an injection of such tenderness that you’re not sure what temperature you are anymore.
Young Oskar lives with his alcoholic mum and he is constantly and horribly bullied at school, thrown out of the pack; Eli is the equally alone ‘girl’ who has just moved next door but only comes out at night. The two find solace in each other, giving hope that if a centuries old vampire and a misunderstood boy from the suburbs can fall in love, then there’s friendship and romance to be had by anyone.
I can’t imagine a better version of unworldly Eli than that gifted to us by Anna-Kate Golding! She is very odd, frighteningly endearing, seemingly impenetrable yet craving more than just blood. This might well be the most chilling and strangely beautiful performance you’ll see on the stage. The audience looked terrified. Seriously! I spotted nail biting, wide eyes, siding up to the person in the next seat. I’m almost convinced that Golding has drunk in Eli’s life-force, “Fear me, understand me, love me” she implores.
Shane David-Joseph is a sweet and inquisitive Oskar, eager for a friend and finding it in the curious Eli. Here is a boy on the cusp of puberty, unsure of his place and displaying a sad acceptance of his lot. David-Joseph’s is an innocence that could break a mother’s heart.
Shown in the round here at Bristol’s Centre for Contemporary Circus and Physical Theatre (but no flying, unfortunately), Let the Right One In is up there with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s best. Go with someone whose hand you can hold, whether from fear or out of love, preferably both.
Let the Right One In runs at Circomedia until 23rd February
Image by Mark Dawson, with thanks