John Tiffany On Bringing the "Beauty of the Vampire" to Brooklyn With Stage Thriller Let the Right One In

News   John Tiffany On Bringing the "Beauty of the Vampire" to Brooklyn With Stage Thriller Let the Right One In
 
The hair-raising production of Let the Right One In, an emotional vampire love story, sees the return of Tony-winning director John Tiffany and Tony nominee Steven Hoggett to St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn. The duo open up about the creation of the show that simultaneously terrifies and enchants audiences.

John Tiffany
John Tiffany Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

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Let the Right One In is adapted for the stage by BAFTA winner Jack Thorne from John Ajvide Lindqvist's horror novel and screenplay of the same name. In many ways it is a typical coming-of-age romance: Vulnerable, bullied Oskar falls for fellow misfit and kindred spirit Eli. The two teens forge a unique friendship and love, but this is tested beyond imaginable limits when she is revealed to be a vampire and the one responsible for the mysterious killings in their town.

Tiffany had seen the 2008 film adaptation by director Thomas Alfredson and was immediately drawn to the relationship between the two characters. "I certainly didn't set out to put a horror story on stage," he says. "I was interested first and foremost in the love story. I find that very, very moving: these two troubled teenagers finding some kind of connection and a way to resource each other. That's something I've always been interested in."

Cristian Ortega and Rebecca Benson
Cristian Ortega and Rebecca Benson Photo by Pavel Antonov

"And of course," he adds, "there's the beauty of the vampire mythology."

Let the Right One In may be a love story, but it is undoubtedly a brutal and frightening one, and Tiffany's production utilizes thrilling special effects to heighten this. He reveals that the team worked incredibly hard to achieve the right balance of horror on the stage. "I tried to be very careful that we didn't overdo it, that we chose specific moments. It's a very different medium from film and what you can do with CGI. I think less is always more in theatre so I chose three or four moments and went, 'OK, let's go to town on these.'" The show certainly does "go to town" at various points with some highly realistic violence, blood and gore, though Tiffany insists it's "not necessarily about scarring the audience.

"It's about having that moment of unity where everyone can jump together, just when you least expect it," he says. "A nod to horror convention."

This is sure to find approval with die-hard fans of the book and film, who call themselves "the infected" and who Tiffany is hoping to please. "You can always tell when they're in the audience," he says, adding that he wanted to "stay true" to the original texts in many ways.

The stage production has recreated a particularly stomach-churning scene that most would have thought impossible. "It's such an iconic moment and something that all of us working on it were very taken by," says Tiffany. He was excited at the challenge of replicating it for the stage, and believes that it is even more unnerving in the theatre. "You can have that same tension in the film, but you know that it's not all one take, whereas in theatre, it's one take," he says. "You can feel the audience wanting to stop it, which is amazing… I'm quite surprised that somebody hasn't gotten up and said, 'You need to stop that now!'"

Rebecca Benson with Cristian Ortega
Rebecca Benson with Cristian Ortega Photo by Pavel Antonov

The entire production has a very chilling feel, aided by award-winner Olafur Arnald's haunting music and Tony winner Christine Jones' (Queen of the Night, Spring Awakening) eerie wooded snowscape.  For Tiffany, it was important that Let the Right One In be staged in the woods, giving the story a kind of Grimm fairy tale feel. "It feels to be connected to the idea of the woods as somewhere you go, a right of passage. I wanted to keep all that."

It was this idea that inspired Tiffany and Tony-nominated choreographer Steven Hoggett  (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Last Ship) to create sequences based around the forest, blending movement and dance. "We were playing with the idea of the townspeople and their relationship with the woods, where the killings are happening," says Tiffany. "That led us to creating sequences around the trees. It's something that has always been a strong part of mine and Steven's work together, and it felt as though the musical lyricism of Let the Right One In would sit well with that."

Friends since childhood, Tiffany and Hoggett have collaborated on numerous award-winning theatrical projects, including the Broadway productions Once and The Glass Menagerie as well as Black Watch, which returned to play three engagements at St. Ann's. Working together again on Let the Right One In, they were particularly interested in the physicality of the vampire; the show sees Eli jumping backwards from a three-story jungle gym and channeling super-strength when in the act of killing. Tiffany says it took "a long time" to find the right actors for the lead roles but when he did, he "knew that they were the right ones. They're great actors, they've got a lovely innocence about them and physically they're incredibly courageous." Christian Ortega plays the lonely Oskar from a broken home and Rebecca Benson portrays the unsettling and fascinating vampire girl, Eli. Tiffany says that the team discussed but decided against using much younger actors as in the film.

Both Ortega and Benson have been attached to Let the Right One In since its earliest production in Scotland in 2013. Tiffany says that in essence, the show has not changed much since its U.K. world premiere though he hopes that "it always gets better" with each revisit. For him, the best part of bringing the show Off-Broadway was the opportunity to return to St. Ann's Warehouse, which was the first strong relationship that he and Hoggett formed in New York. "They have such a fantastic, eclectic audience," he says of the Brooklyn theatre. "Dumbo is such an amazing area, and I was really excited to share the show with that audience and come back to my family at St. Ann's."

Let the Right One In has recently announced an extended run through to March 8. For tickets, visit stannswarehouse.org. St. Ann's Warehouse is located at 29 Jay Street, in Dumbo.

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