Writer: Alice Sebold
Adaptor: Bryony Lavery
Director: Melly Still
Reviewer: John Roberts
Alice Sebold’s gripping and award-winning novel The Lovely Bones, has finally been turned into a stage adaptation and here in this world premiere production, Director Melly Still and Adaptor Bryony Lavery have created a piece of theatre which taps into the heart of the novel and brings a theatrical language to piece where Peter Jackson’s film for this reviewer failed.
The pairing of Still and Lavery is without a doubt one of the best theatrical pairings one can imagine. Lavery’s writing style has a poeticism and crispness to it, which allows Sebold’s story to stand in its own right on the stage, every word is pointed and had meaning, nothing is said that doesn’t need to be there. The text comes to life in Still’s vivid staging, this is ensemble theatre at its finest. This is gripping, engaging storytelling that utilises excellent moments of physical theatre and movement, alongside puppetry to bring the various planes of existence to life on the stage.
Ana Inés Jabares-Pita’s cleverly designed set, brings with it a unique viewing experience, while one can watch the action take place directly in front of us, by viewing the same scene from the large mirror like roof that overhangs above allows another laying of storytelling, and when you as a viewer combine watching between the two, you find yourself at an almost ethereal vantage point, arguably in the same type of plane that protagonist Susie Salmon finds herself in after her brutal rape and murder.
Allowing Susie to tell her own tale, connects us to the character in a way that a traditional narrative wouldn’t, we become part of her story, part of her world and it’s hard to escape this tale mentally for its 1hr40minute running time, but that’s a credit to both the creative team and the hard-working cast who multi-role with incredibly fast changes throughout.
As the main protagonist Charlotte Beaumont plays the 14-year-old victim with a pitch-perfect balance, her emotional highs and lows are visceral and they pack a powerful punch, equally, Keith Dunphy plays the salacious and creepy Mr Harvey with a gravitas and weight that is highly-unnerving. Emotional performances are also given by Jack Sadle as Jack Salmon and Emily Bevan as Abigail Salmon – the parents of Susie. Karan Gill as Ray Singh and Natasha Cottriall as Ruth Connors bring a charming edge to the story which is heart-warming to see played out. Equally impressive is Ayoola Smart as Susie’s sister Lindsey, here her performance is grounded and brings an impressive arc to what could easily be a lesser role in the tale.
The Lovely Bones is a gripping drama, that hits perfection at every step of the way to produce one of the most thrilling and engaging drama’s that this reviewer has seen in a long time. One hopes that it has a life past this limited UK tour, for there is so much to unpack in this production that it really does garner the need for a second viewing to really take in everything Still and Lavery have put into it.
Runs until 6 October 2018 | Image: Sheila Burnett