The Lovely Bones, based on hit novel by Alice Sebold and adapted by Bryon Lavery, opened at Birmingham Rep this week ahead of a UK tour. Originally published in 2002, the story of Murdered Susie Salmon and her family was adapted for the screen in 2009. This stage production feels little like an adaptation, rather a complex and visual story which fits perfectly between the four walls (and creatively placed mirror) of live theatre.
Making a dark story an enjoyable experience at the theatre is no easy task, and is often done with a generous helping of dark humour. The nature of the story is such that it is clear from curtain up that there will not be a happy ending – it is fitting then, that Lovely Bones is amusing at times, but it does not rely on humour to soften the blow of the harrowing story. Instead, it is held up gloriously by intricate writing, a clever set, intelligent directing and beautiful acting.
Charlotte Beaumont is captivating as Susie Salmon, hardly leaving the stage throughout the performance. She does not outshine the rest of the cast, however, which truly does not have a weak link. Many of the cast play more than one role but this is done subtly, with others playing Children in Heaven and Dogs with incredible attention to detail.
Attention must be drawn to Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s Design and Matt Haskins’ Lighting Design. Both communicate dimensions of heaven and earth; allowing space in the dialogue for an exquisite exploration of grief, fear, denial, confusion, and family dynamics.
The Lovely Bones is undoubtedly hard going, but it manages to be complex while accessible. Mentally prepare yourself, then go and see this show.