Sunday, 15 December 2019

Novel adaptation of afterlife drama smashes it out of the park

Novel adaptation of afterlife drama smashes it out of the park

The Lovely Bones | Oxford Playhouse | Monday, November 11

ADAPTATIONS can be hit and miss affairs but the Birmingham Rep’s stunning The Lovely Bones is that rarest of things, brilliant.

Months and even years can go by before this reviewer pulls out that adjective, so it’s not used lightly.

The production is imaginative, compelling, poignant, funny, sad and intense. If you can get a ticket, and you might have to fight for one, then don’t hesitate.

The Lovely Bones is an adaptation of Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel — and what a treat it is.

The performances are uniformly committed and excellent, especially Charlotte Beaumont as Susie, a raped and murdered 14-year-old whose ghost looks on at her family as it moves through the following years.

From that you might think it’s a two and half hour misery trip, but it really is not. Susie continues to carry her adolescent ebullience in the early stages of her afterlife.

First she struggles with death, then tries desperately to communicate with her living relatives. Shouting, screaming and roaring at them to track down her attacker.

But she is impotent: no one hears. Like those nightmares when you shout with all your might and nothing comes out.

Meanwhile her grieving parents and brother and sister argue and bicker among themselves as they take on life without her.

It’s an intricate plot and much of it depends upon an adolescent seeing adulthood through unready eyes.

She can see her murderer and hateful motivations, her mother looking for solace in the arms of the investigating detective, her father obsessed with finding her killer, her sister looking for help, her new and first boyfriend developing into a man — she sees and experiences it all and her confusion is heartbreaking.

Bryony Lavery, the adaptor, and Melly Still, the director, have conjured up an extraordinary set to make it come off the page.

The opening sees a small portion of the centre of the stage marked out in a square and Susie can never stray beyond it.

There is a huge transparent mirror hanging at about 40 degrees to the horizontal of the stage which reflects the action as if from above and in heaven, but also creates new physical areas.

The whole package is engaging, engrossing, dazzling and, one more time, brilliant.

Until Saturday.

Mike Rowbottom

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