Theatre Review: The Lovely Bones @ Birmingham Rep
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The Lovely Bones is a new show produced by the Birmingham REP, the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, and Northern Stage, in association with Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, and is directed by Melly Still.
Images courtesy of the Birmingham Repertory TheatreTonally, this play was all over the place, as if the it can’t decide whether it wants to indulge the horror of the crime at the core of the play or the whimsical detachment of the protagonist-narrator. Once irony eats the horror-cake, you can’t then have the cake. Jumpscares involving a paedophile (who’s proven to be just a human) marauding our ghostly protagonist (who’s proven to be invulnerable to and separate from the physical world) were pointless in their lack of threat, besides being simplistic and obvious as jumpscares are. Trying to discern an intended audience is a confounding task, and this comes down to tone again. Who knows for whom the bizarre underage-sex-scene, set to the production’s ubiquitous sentimental acoustic guitar (God knows they got that guitar out enough times), was intended. It was certainly more uncomfortable a viewing experience than the play intended, given the staging decisions. If, conversely, The Lovely Bones is actually aimed at kids, as all of the admittedly admirable loopiness and zaniness of the interpretation would seem to suggest, the basis of the book on the rape and murder of a child is incongruous to say the least. ‘Meandering’ isn’t exactly a sense one wants to create in an audience. It felt directionless. Maybe the sense of the production is meant to be a metaphor for the feelings of a family in an unsolved murder case, but searching for meaning and closure is quite different in a play – without it the feeling is unfulfilled disappointment rather than real sadness, and, again, that isn’t a feeling that theatre makers should necessarily be wanting to foster in their audiences. This isn’t Forced Entertainment, but despite being adaptation theatre, the ending felt like it.
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