The Lovely Bones
September 25 – October 6
On tour until November 17
The Lovely Bones
No, it isn’t relevant but I just couldn’t resist googling Charlotte Beaumont to see how old she is – her portrayal of 14 year old Susie Salmon is all the more impressive. You would swear she really is a stroppy teenager, just becoming aware of burgeoning sexuality,
whilst repulsed when sensing it in others. A young girl robbed of a future, raped and murdered by a serial killer, she is looking down from Heaven, frustrated by the effect on her family and her inability to communicate so that justice may be served.
Keith Dunphy is so creepy as the villain, Mr Harvey, you find yourself shivering whenever he’s in the vicinity. He is also so peculiar that calling him a weirdo simply fails as a description; lacking any redeeming features could have turned him into a caricature but he’s all too horribly human. What a contrast to Jack Salmon and Detective Fenerman, basically decent, honest but heartbroken men, Jack Sandle and Pete Ashmore quickly earning our sympathy. That of course applies to all the family, as well as to Ray Singh, Susie’s putative boyfriend. Karan Gill is also marvellous as Principal Caden, so blissfully ignorant he seems to revel in it, and as the mischievous family dog, Holiday.
One of the most interesting aspects is the way the younger characters are shown growing up during the course of it; Ayoola Smart lives up to her name in both senses as younger sister Lindsey, almost sharing the limelight as it were with Susie. Meanwhile, Natasha Cottriall is intriguing, switching from sulky younger brother Buckley to sensitive loner, Ruth Connors. Even more so, Pete Ashmore again, when playing Samuel Heckler, Lindsey’s boyfriend, giving him considerable appeal as somebody who appears to be a nerd and yet is cool at the same time.
The adults too evolve over time, principally Abigail, as much stranded as mother and housewife as Jack is with his grief; it risks driving them both mad, and apart. She mourns her daughter just as much, but while Jack is immured in loss, it makes her long to get on with life. Her alarming, loud-mouthed mother, Lynn, tries to be on her best behaviour and adapt to do her best for the family. Susan Bovell really sinks her teeth into the role, giving it a damn good shake to extract every bit of humour, even more so as a clueless, tactless cop. But as Abigail’s mother, she is as admirable in her own way as Ray’s, because Ruana Singh simply chooses to do exactly that, always going her own way.
Although some of the dialogue goes unheard, which a shame because you need to understand everything that’s going on (some parts remain a bit of a mystery), the staging absolutely complements the cast, with many surprising effects, such as the way in which the other victims are introduced. Little however can be said about the setting otherwise the impact would be spoilt. Similarly, the way the whole production is choreographed; the use of movement is inspired, indeed, startling at times. Likewise, lighting and sound, from nerve-wrackingly chilling to solemnly peaceful. The music is of course excellent, and costume vivid, and the whole play will have you on the verge of tears, virtually the entire time, from the unexpected humour to the inevitable pathos.
Bryony Lavery’s work is always worth seeing, eg Swallows and Amazons and her own play, Stockholm, and she has come up with an extraordinary adaptation of an extraordinary book; here at least, justice is splendidly done. There’s often some argument about whether it’s better to read the book first or watch the film or play – in this instance, no question: treat yourself to both.