By Hildy Harland.
I do very few theatre reviews which don’t involve dance in some way, shape or form however, when I was invited to review The Lovely Bones at Northern Stage I could not resist. There has been a great deal of hype on the scene about the arrival of this collaborative play at Northern stage which has joined forces with Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Royal & Derngate, Northampton co-production and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse to bring this disturbing, funny, heart wrenching and heart warming show to the stage.
Unlike many of the other audience members I had never read the book or even seen the film which is surprising as the film stars Saoirse Ronan one of my favourite actors of the past few years. I have been trying my hardest not to encounter any spoilers. I love to see new theatre as new rather than tainted by things I have seen, heard or read in the past. Usually a very hard thing to do most of the time but this was one of the rare occasions I succeeded almost completely. So needless to say I was really excited to see the show and experience it exactly for what it was.
I will try to give away as few spoilers as possible but I would like to warn fellow theatre goers of the startling opening to the performance as I did very nearly shower my theatre neighbours with pepsi max when a loud blast of audio and flash of light caused me to jump out of my skin! The play begins with us meeting our main character Susie Salmon played by Charlotte Beaumont. She has been murdered, throughout the play we journey with her as she tries to evade heaven and remain with her living friends and family. There is also the matter of her unsolved murder and how she can get justice for her death.
The main thing I took from the show was how uniquely it looked on such a savage and horrific death of a teenager. The news in the world is constantly filled with the rape and murder of young people, in particular young women abused and murdered by older men. This play brings us the side of the murdered and abused young woman who is so much more than what befell her. She is strong, capable, funny, loveable and even hopeful that things can still some how work out well in some way.
Her character is brought to life from the confines of her own personal “heaven” which at times is not as heavenly as you might think. The story is set in the early 1970’s through to 80’s so you can expect some great music to accompany this drama with a twist of deep meaning, philosophy and a touch of humour. I really feel like the feeling of youth shone through in this production not only through the way the material was created but through the performances of the younger actors, it really brought a fresh tone to this kind of drama. There were lot’s of very strong performances particularly Susie, her father Jack Salmon played by Jack Sandle and MR Harvey Susie’s murderer played by Keith Dunphy, I also enjoyed Ayoola Smart as Lindsey Salmon (Susie’s Sister). Not to say that the rest of the cast weren’t great too although I did get a couple of little accent cringes now and again but I think when a British cast are doing an American play that is always bound to happen.
The piece is really creative with it’s doubling up on characters use of puppetry and even actors playing animals at some points. I really think this story of such a sensitive nature was told to perfection with some really strong thought put into how they could do such a story justice and inject humour and that feeling of youth without being dis-respectful to the sensitive themes explored within the storyline. The whole cast and creative team truly have succeeded with “The Lovely Bones” and I would recommend you go and see it! It’s running from 9th-20th October at Northern Stage then moves on to Birmingham Repertory Theatre and New Wolsey Theatre.