• Amy Toledano

The Lovely Bones presented by Birmingham Repertory Theatre

What is it?

Based on the Alice Sebold novel of the same name, this new production from Birmingham Rep is a shimmering and inventive interpretation of a moving story.

What is it all about?

Susie Salmon (Charlotte Beaumont) has been murdered. Now, in her own version of heaven, she witnesses how she got here, a creepy neighbour who sneaks under the radar and watches her family try and come to terms with her death, and what comes next.

Her father Jack (Jack Sandle) obsesses over the details of the case, losing himself in the investigation and in turn, losing touch with his family. Susie's mother Abigail (Catrin Aaron) also throws herself into her remaining children, Lindsey (Fanta Barrie) and Buckley (Leigh Lothian) and does not allow herself to deal with her trauma properly.

As the family grow and move forward, Susie finds herself stuck, waiting and hoping that she will not be forgotten.

How did it make me feel?

There are so many elements of this piece that made me feel deeply and passionately. Having a strong relationship with the book, I had slight scepticism going in, as anyone with a love for the original form does. But the things that Director Molly Still has done, along with Bryony Lavery's excellent adaptation, is absolutely stunning and made all my fears disappear in the first few moments of the play.

The cast, a wonderful ensemble of talent and energy, create a sense of urgency and warmth throughout, and multi-role with ease and simplicity. Especially wonderful is Leigh Lothian who plays both Susie's younger brother Buckley, but also the tortured soul Ruth, with whom Susie finds a connection after her death. Samuel Gosrani also gives a gorgeous performance as Susie's former crush Ray, but the family's ever energetic dog Holiday.

Designer Ana Ines Jabares-Pita's elaborate and incredible set is a revelation. Use of a large, semi transparent mirror at the back of the action, provides the audience with an out of world view, and always giving a sense of watching the action from afar, unable to be directly apart of it, much like Susie is throughout.

Still's direction is truly fantastic, as every note of this story is hit with the exact power and tenderness needed to tell it well. Famously known for its difficult content, Still has taken the focus out of the disturbing trauma, and uses beautiful movement and lighting to represent these moments instead, with an impact that is just as strong.

Where was it playing?

An unusual choice, with a strong payoff, this piece plays on the huge stage of Hackney Empire, and allows it to breathe and explore the many aspects of itself with an ease that many other theatre's may not be able to provide.

Anything else?

For anyone who loves the novel but is unsure if this version will measure up, rest assured, it does not only serve the original text beautifully, but it also brings a whole new identity to it, and remains a story of hope and love that both new and old audiences can enjoy.

Amy x

The Lovely Bones is playing at Hackney Empire until the 1st November 2019.

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