REVIEW: The Lovely Bones
Lauren Haughey reviews Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s production of The Lovely Bones at Exeter’s Northcott Theatre.
From the moment I heard that The Lovely Bones was being performed at the Northcott theatre, I knew I had to go. Being a massive fan of all things spooky, this thriller has been one of my favourites ever since I read Alice Sebold’s novel back when I was at school. The Lovely Bones follows the murder story of Susie Salmon who is trapped in purgatory painfully watching her family struggle between searching for justice and moving on to a better future. The story itself creates an array of mixed emotions, from the fear of cold-blooded murder, to the warmth of family memories that we sometimes take for granted.
As I entered the theatre, I was immediately impressed by how perfectly the stage-set had captured these feelings. From the eeriness of the ingenious mirrored ceiling and looming cornfields, to the sentimental yet sinister dolls’ houses overshadowing the stage behind an ambiguously blurred screen. In a matter of minutes this intriguing ambience was brought to life with a surprisingly bubbly yet captivating narrative from Charlotte Beaumont’s portrayal of Susie. I became absorbed within her box of a world, a mess of memories with a heightened sense of loss, enhanced also by her mourning family members. Each performer brought something unique to the table, delivering a compelling night of flawless acting.
“Each performer brought something unique to the table, delivering a compelling night of flawless acting. “
What also intensified this night of theatre was that actors talking in the forefront often masked Mr Harvey’s subtle and sly movements as he lurked behind the scenes. Stealthy behaviour like this was a chilling reminder that his burning desire for death was still very much alive. These quiet moments of hostility in amongst other whispered seconds of family life made me continuously question myself. Had I missed something significant? I must admit, with such a glaringly menacing performance from David Khan as Mr Harvey, I have been tempted to watch the play again to find out.
Even though I was dazzled by the show, I do have one criticism that, without trying to reveal any spoilers, I did find slightly disappointing. As the play draws to a close, there is a dramatic death of a major character. Whilst, of course, the outcome is pretty good in many respects, I would argue that for those who haven’t read the book or seen the film, this death seems incredibly sudden, being over within less than a few seconds. Yes, this did provoke a chuckle from the audience, me included, but after such a tense build-up in the first act, I question whether this event seemed a little anticlimactic in the second half?
“…Melly Still has no-doubtedly directed a fantastic Bryony Lavery adaptation of The Lovely Bones at the Northcott Theatre.”
In spite of this small criticism, Melly Still has no-doubtedly directed a fantastic Bryony Lavery adaptation of The Lovely Bones at the Northcott Theatre. While current freaky cinema thrillers like The Conjuring, and IT 2 are thoroughly enjoyable, I feel that the scariness of stage performances like this one is definitely not talked about enough! I was certainly on the edge of my seat throughout this rollercoaster of a play, shuddering with its series of jump scares, strobe lights, and hair-raising moments. So, if you get a chance to see the play whilst it’s still on, definitely grab yourself a ticket and go experience it for yourself!