Birmingham Repertory Theatre
THE LOVELY BONES
Written by Alice Sebold
Adapted by Bryony Lavery
Directed by Melly Still
Chichester Festival Theatre
26 – 30 November 2019
Review by Margret Covell
The Lovely Bones is an extraordinary book - and now it is an extraordinary piece of theatre. Bryony Lavery has managed to achieve the seemingly impossible task of adapting what is a complex, multi-textured page turner of a book into a play that is a feast for the senses, whilst still retaining the unique essence that made the book an instant success all around the world.
To say that this is an uplifting and life-affirming play would seem to be at odds with its subject matter. For this tells the story of fourteen year old Susie Salmon, a happy, bright teenager living in a small town in Pennsylvania in 1973. But that was before she met her neighbour, Harvey, on her way home from school and he killed her. We get to understand she’s in heaven, but can’t let go completely of life on earth until her killer is captured. She narrates the story from her perspective as she urges family to follow up on clues and screams in frustration as the police don’t follow up on vital evidence. She sees how her family cope with her loss and ultimately adapt. And she’s so gratified to realise that the boy with whom she shared her first kiss has never forgotten her.
The visual impact of the play is realised by suspending a soft mirror at an angle to the stage. We have a multi-perspective on all our characters, including Harvey as he plays out his life behind the screen of foliage that is the backdrop of the piece. Ana Ines Jabares-Pita is a talented and innovative designer, known for her multi-layered approach. Dave Price has composed a sound track that perfectly captures the feeling of time moving on and the bitter-sweet moments of life as it moves forward. By the end of the play we are in 1985, and that sense of time is helped along by the popular music of the time. Susie is in raptures as she dances and shimmies to Life on Mars - David Bowie is her hero for all time.
When a production such as this has the talent and energy of an entire cast and creative team working collaboratively, it shows. It would be impossible to pick out any one cast member for praise, so let’s just focus on the protagonist of the piece - Susie Salmon. Charlotte Beaumont captures the effervescence of youth perfectly. She remains the stroppy, vibrant, funny and vulnerable teenager forever, and when the moment comes when she’s able to let go of her earthly life and embrace what comes next, it feels triumphant.
This production works brilliantly on the Chichester stage and I would recommend you taking the opportunity to see it this week. You will be glad you did.
Box Office: 01243 781312 www.cft.org.uk