Many have named John Tiffany’s production of Let The Right One In as the best play of 2014. Following runs in Dundee and at the Royal Court, the National Theatre of Scotland’s production transferred to the Apollo Theatre in the West End.
Oskar is a bullied lonely teenage boy living with his mother on a housing estate at the edge of town, when a spate of sinister killings rock the neighbourhood. Eli is the young girl who has just moved in next door. She doesn’t go to school and never leaves the flat by day. Sensing in each other a kindred spirit, the two become devoted friends. What Oskar doesn’t know is that Eli has been a teenager for a very long time…
As Let The Right One In’s run comes to an end, I caught up with the play’s young stars - Rebecca Benson and Martin Quinn – to discuss the play’s incredible journey to the West End, the secret of the its success and how they keep their performances fresh night after night…
Has it felt different performing Let The Right One In in the West End? You’re performing in a totally different theatre!
Rebecca Benson: Yes! Well first of all it’s bigger here! The Royal Court was perfect because it was intimate, but I guess at times it felt a little bit crowded. We’ve been able to spread it out a bit more here in the West End and I think that’s helped with the way the story is told – staging wise we’re more free.
Martin Quinn: My brothers have seen the show about eight times in every venue we’ve been in. They said Dundee was wide and cinematic and that the Royal Court was narrow which made the audience feel as if they were totally there with us. They said this theatre in the West End is a happy mix between the two and you get the best of both.
Can you put your finger on the success of Let The Right One In?
RB: There’s the Romeo and Juliet aspect which is always popular – you’re watching two people who aren’t good for each other and shouldn’t be together, but they just cannot help themselves. There are also loads of other things going on, it’s a spectacle and people have really enjoyed the way we’ve done certain scenes. Different people get different things from it.
MQ: At the heart of the play it’s a love story, but also we hear gasps from the audience.
RB: People aren’t sure what to expect, it’s a disarming play which is why I think quite a lot of people have come back to see it again and still enjoy it. There’s just so much – the writing, the layers to the story, the staging and the ensemble working together.
MQ: It looks beautiful – the design is awesome – it’s so cool! I think it’s a great piece of art to look at before the play even begins. Everything slots in.
How have audiences been responding? Has the response felt different in London?
RB: In Dundee the audiences felt so excited because it was about their town and the show was being put on for a reason. We had rough looking, masculine men standing up at the end in tears shouting “bravo”! I loved having the schools in at the Royal Court, at some points during the show I couldn’t hear anything because they were just screaming! It’s been a massive joy; what I’ve found in London is that sometimes the audiences make less noise. Luckily there’s a lot of comedy in the play which warms people up – it’s different to most other things that are on at the moment.
You’ve been playing these roles for such a long time now, how have you kept it fresh?
MQ: Obviously the changes of venues have meant the show has been changed and at each venue we have had new cast members which also keep it fresh. Having new actors in rehearsals allowed us to look at our characters in new ways. I think now it’s the strongest it has ever been because we know these characters so well.
RB: We’re incredibly lucky because the script is open to interpretation. I don’t feel as if I’ve ever come onstage with Martin and done the same scene twice. Because it’s theatre sometimes things can go wrong or someone can forget something…
What’s gone wrong?
RB: Rubik’s Cubes fly off into the distance… chocolate bars have entered the auditorium [both laugh] – these things happen and that’s one of the reasons I think people love theatre so much. It’s a thrill! You cannot do another take.
So imagine I’m someone who rarely goes to the theatre, but Let The Right One In catches my eye… what can I expect?
RB: You can expect to feel welcomed! Quite a lot of people who have never been to the theatre have really enjoyed this show.
MQ: I’ve told my pals that even if you don’t usually like going to the theatre you will like this! The special effects are cool!
RB: There’s plenty in there to make people sit upright in their seats! You can expect to jump a foot from your seat, feel queasy, fall in love with Oskar and be grossed out! We’re hoping to get as many young people who usually go to the cinema to come and see our play because it’s a really good night out!
MQ: It’s far cooler when you see blood right in front of you rather than on a TV or cinema screen [both laugh]!