Written By: Alison Jones
Date: September 26 2018
Location: Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
When I told people I was going to see a theatre production of The Lovely Bones (written by Alice Sebold, and adapted by Bryony Lavery), I had a mixed reaction. Mainly from people who had read the book or seen the film, and wondered how the novel would be able to be staged. However, the production by Melly Still, lighting by Matt Haskins and the design by Ana Ines Jabares-Pita brought it all to life. A tilted mirror ceiling reflected the action and the lighting provided a surreal feel, with characters seen both behind and in front of the backdrop.
The Everyman Theatre was a great place to see it, as the audience are so close to the actors, so you don’t miss a thing.
I had been advised that the story was sad, moving, even upsetting, but I didn’t feel that way. The adaptation was hugely energetic, moving at pace with excellent performances from the whole cast, some members playing two or even three parts, all very distinguishable from each other to their credit.
The play is based around Susie Salmon (Charlotte Beaumont), who as a 14-year-old was raped and murdered on her way home from school by Mr. Harvey (Keith Dunphy). Charlotte is brilliant as Susie, providing the narrative throughout and a bird’s eye view of what is going on back on earth while she waits to enter heaven.
Keith Dunphy gives off an adequate amount of sinister menace as her murderer, and we find out that Susie wasn’t his only victim. One poignant moment is when Susie meets the other unfortunate victims, demonstrated by actors holding their dresses, projecting their arms through the costumes as though they were puppeteers and introducing themselves – one victim as young as 5-years-old.
Susie watches how her family and friends deal with her disappearance and apparent murder. She craves the life and prospective love she has lost, whilst others get on with their lives and gradually move on. She watches her killer and demonstrates the frustration she feels at the lack of competency shown in catching him and bringing him to justice. Music from the 70s is used at various moments throughout the play, which helps to remind us of that particular era, and also acts a reminder of the innocent yet open attitude to sexuality at that time.
The family and friends’ characters reflect the differing reactions to Susie’s murder. Her father Jack (Jack Sandle) gives a powerful performance – devastated and fixated upon finding her murderer – whilst her mother Abigail (Emily Bevan) is desolate and copes by leaving the family altogether. Her siblings manage in their own way, and special mention must be made of Ayoola Smart who plays Lindsey Salmon (who Susie watches growing up) and Natasha Cottriall, who plays both Susie’s younger brother Buckley and also Ruth Connors (a friend with questionable psychic abilities).
The ending of the play sees Susie’s remains lost forever, and Mr. Harvey isn’t brought to justice. He meets a sticky end, but to be honest, it feels a little rushed and I felt some frustration at the outcome. Susie’s family regroup and, now feeling happy, she finally accompanies her chaperone and mentor (Bhawna Bhawsar) and enters heaven. A riveting show.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good