“They say he killed them like pigs. Hung them up and watched the blood drain. I’m not lying. Like a pig.”
Let the Right One In is a stage adaptation by Jack Thorne, based on the novel of the same name by Jon Ajvide Lindqvist (Swedish: Låt den rätte komma in) and its first film adaptation.
Whilst the pandemic pushed this production back by two years, now is the perfect time for it to premiere, for not only are we approaching Halloween, but a US TV adaptation is currently airing on Showtime. This follows a Swedish film adaptation, which was itself adapted in the US (Let Me In), a US pilot for TNT, and two previous stage adaptations (one of which was helmed by Lindqvist himself).
The novel tells the story of a bullied 12-year-old boy who develops a friendship with a strange child in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm.
Lonely at home and bullied at school, Oskar only has a Rubik’s cube and his imagination for company – until Eli moves in next door. Despite Eli’s odd odour of infected bandages and dead-dog, the teenagers develop a powerful and unusual friendship. But when a butchered body is found in a nearby forest, Oskar slowly unravels the truth about Eli, and their strange bond is stretched to breaking point.
The book grapples with the darker side of humanity, including such issues as existential anxiety, social isolation, fatherlessness, divorce, alcoholism, school bullying, paedophilia, genital mutilation, self-mutilation, and, yes, murder. The stage adaptation is expected to grapple with most, if not all, of these themes – and the Royal Exchange is known for not shying away from controversial issues.
This compelling and unnerving coming-of-age story like no other is directed by the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Joint Artistic Director Bryony Shanahan (who The Mancunion interviewed not long after she took over from the esteemed Sarah Frankcom). Shanahan explored her darker side with the bizarre play-with-music The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart. A far-cry from the theatre’s usual annual jazz-hands musicals, it showed ambition and boldness on Shanahan’s behalf, though it received a mixed reception (but I gave it a very positive review).
Shanahan has proven herself in the horror genre, and I expect her interpretation and direction of Let the Right One In to be daring, dramatic, and dark.
Let the Right One In began its run at the Royal Exchange Theatre on October 22 and runs until November 19.