LONDON (Reuters) - A vampire who is a picky eater might seem to be a contradiction but is the star of the show in “Let the Right One In”, the latest transfer of a cinema hit to the stage.
Although the main characters are teenagers - albeit one of whom is several centuries old - this National Theatre of Scotland production that has just opened in London’s West End is not for children, nor for squeamish adults.
There is not all that much blood on stage but there is enough, and it starts flowing in the first five minutes.
Eli, the androgynous “Right One” of the title played by Rebecca Benson, needs it. Hakan, travelling with her under the assumed identity of being her father, has the job of finding it.
His modus operandi is to sneak up on someone in the snowy woods somewhere in the Nordics, probably in Sweden, where author John Ajvide Lindquist wrote the original novel and where the first film version was made.
Hakan proceeds to gas and string the unconscious victim upside down from a tree, slit the throat, drain the blood and leave the corpse hanging like a carcass in a meat locker.
Such activities do not go unnoticed in a small rural community and before long the police are on the case - warning people not to wander alone in the forest.
“We will catch this killer but it is you who must keep safe,” the police inspector says, eventually to be proven fatally wrong on all counts.
One of the people who wanders into the woods is the local misfit - pudgy, unathletic Oskar, played by Martin Quinn with a wonderful lightness of touch. He is bullied by two schoolmates who mash him up in the locker room, call him “Piggy” and generally make his life hell.
There he meets Eli. Both being misfits, they are the perfect match.
On a visit to a sweet shop, she buys out almost the entire stock, but when Oskar convinces her to eat one, against her better judgment, she becomes almost deathly ill.
Later, when Hakan, who has attempted suicide because his efforts to procure blood have failed, is being treated in hospital, she tries to drink his blood. But she spits it out because it is laced with morphine - hence the vampire whose blood diet must not contain additives.
It is all played in a spirit of ghoulish good fun but the wicked moments of bullying and Eli despatching her enemies creep up unexpectedly, even to people who have seen the movie.
“What’s interesting is that people have told me they find the bullying scenes much more uncomfortable than Eli’s killing scenes,” director John Tiffany says in the programme notes.
“We decided we would only do two or three moments of blood and try to do them well. We didn’t want to have a gore fest and turn this into a Tarantino version of ‘Let the Right One In’.”
Among the generally glowing notices, Charles Spencer in The Telegraph wrote: “John Tiffany’s fine production...strikes me as being every bit as good as the disconcerting original movie. It’s less weird, but much warmer, though it certainly doesn’t short-change the audience when it comes to thrills and chills.”
Editing by Angus MacSwan