By Alice Sebold. Adapted by Bryony Lavery. Directed by Melly Still
Susie Salmon is just like any other young girl. She wants to be beautiful, adores her charm bracelet and has a crush on a boy from school. There’s one big difference though – Susie is dead.
Adapted from Alice Sebold’s well-known novel, The Lovely Bones examines loss, grief, closure and desire through the eyes of Susie, its teenage protagonist. It is a successful adaptation of an already brilliant plot, but what’s more, makes for an excellent piece of theatre.
Two worlds – the ‘real’ one, and the realm in which Susie exists – intertwine with each other in clever staging and stagecraft. Elements that ordinarily may have been visually confusing in combination (mirrors, puppets, humans-as-scenery) are made effective through slick execution. It feels made for the stage, with extensive use of movement, voice and a killer soundtrack raising it to the highest levels.
It feels somewhat unfair to pick out individual performances from a talented ensemble, with almost every actor performing multiple roles (some canine), but special mention must go to Charlotte Beaumont as Susie Salmon. Onstage throughout, she embodied teenage anger and innocence, using her voice and her body to its full potential.
The plot may sound relentlessly miserable, but this is not one of those plays you endure just to admire the beauty of the craft. It is a wonderful balance of dark and light (with a surprising number of laughs), a charming reminder to live life to the full.
A thoroughly excellent night at the theatre, heartily recommended.
The Lovely Bones runs at Oxford Playhouse until Saturday 16th November.
Images: Pamela Raith