The Lovely Bones novel Alice Sebold, adapted Bryony Lavery
Birmingham Rep Theatre: The House
Runs: 1h 45m, no interval, till 10 November
Bham Rep BO: 0121 236 4455
Review: Rod Dungate, 1 November 2018
Many good parts which do not completely add up
There is no doubt that Melly Still’s direction is skilled and sensitive; Bryony Lavery’s adaptation is fluid and there is a sense of wholeness. However, there is a pervasive air of detachment that leaves us not really satisfied. A Renaissance playwright likened a play to a great banquet . . . The Lovely Bones in the theatre is rather more like a light supper.
It is difficult to not notice the present trend to adapt successful films into theatre drama – straight or music theatre; The Lovely Bones, written as a novel in 2002 by Alice Seybold, was turned into a successful film in 2009, directed by Peter Jackson. At the risk of sounding cynical, I might suggest that these adaptations are driven by an increasing need to reach ever more challenging box office targets in an ever increasing hostile funding environment. But such translations do not always make successful theatre – and, I fear, The Lovely Bones is just such a case in point.
The play centres around Abigail Salmon, a young girl brutally murdered by a serial killer. The story is told by her dead self; it is the story of her need to come to terms with her brutal murder and move on. This movement reflects the way those in her world (still living) must move on too. They age, of course, which she does not.
Lavery’s adaptation reflects the cruel randomness of life. The supernatural required by the story, is a means of emphasising this. While this crucial aspect may work well in the novel and film, it results in the theatre with a tale that is confusing at times, and with which it is difficult to make an emotional connection. We struggle intellectually with the piece and emotionally fail to care about any of the characters.
The fault, it seems to me, lies with the desire to transfer the book-film into the theatre, not with the adaptation nor the production.
The production has its successes. Juxtaposing the Salmon family happily getting supper ready with the daughter being murdered is a shock and a coup. Similarly a scene in which all the murderer’s victims endeavour to help Abigail move on by describing their own vile murders in totally matter-of-fact manner. Holiday, the dog, ((Karan Gill) is inspired, particularly when insisting on squeaking a toy at the most inappropriate moments.
Emily Bevan creates a most likeable Abigail, it is just a shame we are unable to make a stronger connection with her.
Len Fenerman / Samual Heckler: Pete Ashmore
Susie Salmon: Charlotte Beaumont
Abigail Salmon: Emily Bevan
Ruana Singh / Franny: Bhawna Bhawsar
Lynn / Cop / Mrs Flanagan: Susan Bovell
Ruth Connors / Buckley Salmon: Natasha Cottraill
Mr Harvey: Keith Dunphy
Ray Singh / Principal Caden / Holiday: Karan Gill
Jack Salmon: Jack Sandle
Lindsey Salmon: Ayoola Smart
Adapter: Bryony Lavery
Director: Melly Still
Designer: Ana Ines Jabares-Pita
Lighting Designer: Matt Haskins
Composer: Dave Price
Sound Designer: Helen Skiera
Movement Director: Mike Ashcroft
Puppetry: Emily Mytton
Voice and Dialect Coach: Charmian Hoare