Alice Sebold’s bestselling 2002 book The Lovely Bones has been adapted into a moving stage production currently touring across the UK this autumn.
I spoke to Charlotte Beaumont, who plays the central role of 14 year-old Susie who experiences a traumatic event that leaves her watching the people in her life deal their grief after she is gone. “At the start of the play she is horrifically raped and killed, and becomes stuck in this in-between heaven and is watching the impact of her death on everyone,” Charlotte said. “All whilst trying to figure out what she wants the most and what she will miss the most.”
The play is staged in 100 minutes without an interval, allowing the story to flow and the production to have the intensity it requires to tell the story. “We needed to create that abstract, non literal heaven and earth space and how heaven and earth bleed into one another,” Charlotte explained. “There is one big mirror at the back of the stage on a 45-degree angle. This has really allowed us to really play with the scenes happening all around Susie as an ever-present character.”
It’s a coming of age story that has captured the hearts of many with the popular book and film as young Susie faces some huge issues in her life as all teenagers do. “At the beginning of the play she says that her favourite quote is ‘They give you ruled paper, write the other way,’ Susie is someone that wants to break all the rules,” Charlotte said. “She is a ballsy character that loves fiercely and feels everything so deeply and doesn’t do well with authority. She is only fourteen and doesn’t really know who she is and I think that is something in her death that she really discovers.”
Charlotte emphasised that her main challenge in the show is that it’s a 100 minutes straight through and she never leaves the stage. “I have to keep on the ball,” she said. “There are so many different thoughts that happen in a short amount of time, so I have to stay really switched on, keep on top of the action and focus it in the right place.”
Having read the book long before
“Death is something that we don’t talk about. It is the one thing that we are all certain of, but no one talks about it because we are all terrified of it. To have a play that addresses grief head on, showing the audience that it is part of life, and not to be feared, is a really special thing.”
Whilst doing the show the other day, Charlotte had a thought about how relevant the production is despite it being a story set in the 70s. “I was thinking about the politeness of Susie, the man that rapes and kills her is saying ‘come with me, I’ll show you this’ and despite trying to say no, she is drawn in because she doesn’t want to be rude,” Charlotte explained. “That is still so present today, women staying in uncomfortable situations because they want to be polite.”
“I hope that people will feel moved by The Lovely Bones, and feel hopeful too,” Charlotte said. “The play goes through the whole stages of grief and I think the audience really get taken on a journey. At the end, I hope they feel hopeful and not scared of dying. I just hope it makes people reflect a little bit on mortality and open up that conversation.”
The Lovely Bones opens at the Birmingham Rep on the 30th of November before continuing on tour.