Let the Right One In is a love story, a coming of age tale and a homage to the vampire myth. It is also much more than that.
John Ajvide Lindqvist, the Swedish novelist who first created this story wrote it as a searing social commentary on the suburb in which he grew up. He was a twelve year old in 1981 – just like our protagonist, Oskar. It was a suburb populated by people at the margins, the disenfranchised, those easily overlooked and neglected. And at school, just like Oskar, he was the victim of merciless bullying. Let the Right One In presents us with a world underpinned by oppression and perversion.
When I first saw the Swedish film version of Let the Right One In I knew it was ripe for an exhilarating stage adaptation as did producer Marla Rubin who created this adaptation with The National Theatre of Scotland. We are thrilled to be presenting the Australian premiere of Let the Right One In and only its second ever production. A play about bullying feels particularly pertinent now given some of the current cast of characters on our world stage.
Our production is presented by an entirely West Australian cast of actors. As a result, this originally Swedish story has taken on a very a local flavour. While there might not be too many Australian suburbs where snow falls and kids ice skate, we saw the themes and characters come into sharp focus when looking at this story through a local lens. In the rehearsal room we have talked about isolation and encroaching terror, in particular the effect that the Eric Edgar Cooke murders had on Perth’s innocence and how they impinged on the city’s sense of safety. We have talked about bullying from the perspective of racism in Australia and our nation’s invasion history. This vampire story, derived from ancient myth, asks us who should we invite in and what befalls those who arrive uninvited?
Let the Right One In is a call to action, to never be complicit with persecution. There is a line in the play spoken early on by the police, “Evil only needs silence” that echoes the idea that “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for men of good conscience to remain silent.” We can all be vigilant and valiant, we can all act with agency and responsibility, we can all call out the monsters. And perhaps we all have the monster within us.
For us, the design concept came first, inspired by the Rubik’s cube that Oskar and Eli play with and reminding us of Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Three books sat on our rehearsal room table: Stan Grant’s Talking to My Country, Bill Henson’s Mnemosyne and Jane Fonda’s Ultimate Workout – this perhaps best sums up the diversity of influence on this production.
At the heart of Let the Right One In is the love story. Oskar and Eli are two young people finding what they need in one another. They each offer the other protection, understanding, friendship and love. Creating this production has been a process built on respect, care and discipline, with lots of laughter and some killer eighties dance moves. We wish you all a fun night at the theatre.
Image: Ian Michael, Clare Watson, Sophia Forrest. In rehearsals of Let the Right One In. Image by Daniel James Grant.