The haunting story of the much-loved novel The Lovely Bones is brought to life on stage in a theatrical production that looks at death in a thought-provoking way.
Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s powerful 2002 novel sticks largely to the text, opening with the horrendous rape and murder of 14-year-old girl Susie Salmon. After she is killed, she is stuck inside this in-between world watching her family continue their lives without her. Her siblings are growing up, parents growing apart and her dad becomes obsessed with figuring out who killed her.
Susie craves the life she has lost and her frustration builds as she fights to shape the lives of the people she has left behind. Condensed into a tight 100 minutes, you are completely consumed by the story.
Charlotte Beaumont carries the show exceptionally as young Susie Salmon. She captures all emotions of the character, whether that’s the pain in her eyes when Mr Harvey attacks her, or the excitement when she sees her sister fall in love. Beaumont brings electric energy to the role with her teenage stroppiness shifting from rage to humour. Beaumont makes the role of Susie feel authentic as she uses superb wit and comedy timing to portray her mischievous side.
The relationship between Susie and her father is a poignant part of the show, as he is desperately clinging onto her and his possessive grief is tough to watch. As everyone’s lives continue, he is stuck in his grief and anger towards what has happened. Despite Susie being in the in-between world, there are beautiful moments where they connect and feel each other’s presence.
The direction from Melly Still feels entirely contemporary, despite the story being set back in the 70s. With an essence of Marianne Elliott, the physicality of the storytelling enhances the power of this compelling production. Susie’s rape and murder are told through clothes thrown in the air and when her father throws Susie’s snow globe the cast becomes the flying shards of glass. However, it is the use of the puppet-like characters and the clever way the actors put their arms through different dresses to create the other young girls that were killed by Mr Harvey, that really stuck with me. This subtle way of creating these characters that Susie meets and the way it gives them a voice is extraordinary.
It’s a tough idea to bring to life on stage, but this adaptation is truly mesmerising with the creative way they’ve transformed the set. Designer Ana Inés Jabares-Pita alongside Matt Haskins’ lightening creates another world on stage. With a large reflective surfaces tilted at the top of the stage, heaven and earth reflect into one another.
The Lovely Bones will leave you thinking about death, grief and the way the world will shift when you’re gone. It’s an emotive coming of age story and moving celebration of life told through thrilling storytelling.
On at the Birmingham Rep until the 10th of November before continuing on tour across the UK.