Director John Tiffany writes about his stage adaptation of the acclaimed horror movie Let The Right One In, currently playing at The Abbey Theatre.
Let the Right One In is one of my favourite films of recent years. It is full of images that have burned their way into my mind: bodies frozen in coffins of ice; blood spilling on to snow; a patient in a hospital bed bursting into flames. I first saw it at a friend's house one lazy Sunday in the summer of 2009.
A year or so later I was approached about creating a stage version of Let the Right One In by a producer who had acquired the rights and immediately the idea felt exciting. It's a tender, brutal love story following the relationship between Oskar, a lonely bullied teenage boy, and Eli, a young female vampire who befriends him. At the time, I was associate director at the National Theatre of Scotland (working with Neil Murray and Graham McLaren), and it seemed perfect for the company. We are incredibly honoured that, now Neil and Graham have taken the reins at the Abbey, they have invited us to make a new version of the production with a brilliant all-Irish cast.
I knew the idea would appeal to my long-time collaborator, the director and choreographer Steven Hoggett. The physicality of a young female vampire – hunting and drinking blood – would be right up his street. The way communities are affected by murders and death was also something we had talked about exploring. I felt Jack Thorne, writer of such pioneering TV dramas as Skins and This Is England, would be the man to adapt this story for the stage. We gathered a team and dived into creating the production in 2013.
What is it about this myth that I keep returning to it in different forms? Obviously there’s the grief we all experience about growing up and leaving the innocence and free imaginations of childhood behind.
It was only once we started rehearsals that I realised I was exploring yet another incarnation of the Peter Pan myth. JM Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, was a Scottish writer and I had directed Peter Pan for a large scale National Theatre of Scotland tour in 2010. Peter Pan has haunted me since I was a little boy and the scene towards the end of the story when Peter returns to the nursery and is afraid for Wendy to turn the light on because he will see she has grown up, I find almost unbearably moving. Watching the story of Let the Right One In play out in front of me it struck me that Eli was Peter (the girl who wouldn't grow up), Hakan was Wendy and Oskar was Jane, Wendy’s daughter who she allows to fly off with Peter to Neverland.
What is it about this myth that I keep returning to it in different forms? Obviously there’s the grief we all experience about growing up and leaving the innocence and free imaginations of childhood behind. But I’m also fascinated by Peter and Eli as characters who won’t, or can’t, grow up. It’s a terrifying prospect as you are destined to witness your partner get old and pass away over and over again; it’s infinite heartbreak. In rehearsals last week, Katie, Craig, Nick and I were talking about this idea and whether Eli’s actions are selfish. When the notion of infinite heartbreak became clear to them I could tell that they were all very moved. We all had a moment of recognition about the deep pain within Eli, Oskar and Hakan.
As JM Barrie writes as the last line of Peter Pan...
‘…and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.’
Let The Right One In is at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, until January 20th - more details here.