Reviewed by Louise Edwards
Transferring a book and film to stage is a huge project but clearly not one that adaptor Bryony Lavery and director Mely Still were swayed from as they bring to life Alice Sebold’s 2002 globally bestselling debut novel, The Lovely Bones, with astonishing results. As someone who had read the book, around the time of its UK release, I was intrigued to see how it would be interpreted and embodied, particularly with such horrific themes at its core.
The Lovely Bones is set in Pennsylvania and the drama starts the early 1970’s. The audience are plunged into darkness and then stunned by the flash of bright lights as the action unfolds. Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon, played with youthful energy by Charlotte Beaumont is walking home when she is drawn into conversation with a creepy neighbour, Mr Harvey, played brilliantly weird by Nicholas Khan. Against her better judgement, she goes to see an underground house he has built where he offers her a Coke and she nervously tries to make her exit. The show is powerful and tense, as we witness Susie being raped and then murdered by Harvey in a calculating and emotionless manner.
From this point we see Susie in heaven (illustrated by marking out a rectangular-shaped space on the stage) being introduced to Sophie Cichetti, played by Radhika Aggarwal, who explains to her that her life on earth has ended. As the book is narrated by the murdered teen, so the stage has Susie at the core with heaven and earth interwoven as we see her devasted family torn apart looking for answers to explain her disappearance.
Susie’s parents Abigail, played by Catrin Aaron and Jack, played by Jack Sandle wander around the stage in a daze with Susie scampering around them trying to get their attention, though they can’t see her, which makes you think that sometimes even when people are gone they can still feel very close.
The stage has a large mirror overhanging, which creates the illusion of space and as one thing in happening centrally you can see what else is going on elsewhere resulting in a mesmerising and atmospheric production. The lighting works so well with this and is incredible in casting illusions and Lighting Designer, Matt Haskins, pulls out all the stops to create a sublime spectacle.
There are so many breath-holding moments as the audience sit captivated. You could cut the air with knife at the end of the first act as Susie’s sister Lindsay, is seen exiting Harvey’s house with crucial evidence which gives the family the much craved for answers.
Music plays a central part in this performance too with iconic 70s and 80s songs from David Bowie, The Stylistics and Tears for Fears blast out to fit in with the time period the supernatural action is taking place.
This is horrific subject matter but the by the end it feels positive and really packs a punch. It is a blisteringly beautiful coming of age, essentially life-affirming play which will leave you with lots to think and talk about.
Tickets cost from £12.50 to £38 (booking fees may apply).
The Lovely Bones is at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham from 24-28 September 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.trch.co.uk or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.
Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND