Powerful and poignant - The Lovely Bones on stage in Chichester

Charlotte Beaumont as Susie: Pamela Raith Photography
Charlotte Beaumont as Susie: Pamela Raith Photography

REVIEW: The Lovely Bones, Chichester Festival Theatre until November 30.

It was difficult to imagine the leap of imagination that would be needed to lift Alice Sebold’s breath-taking, unforgettable novel from the page to the stage.

But we can imagine it now, with Bryony Lavery’s astonishing adaptation.

The result is stunning, a piece of theatre which is gripping from first to last and, best of all, reminds us precisely why we go to the theatre.

Powerful and poignant, it is the tale of murder victim Susie Salmon (quite beautifully played by Charlotte Beaumont) suspended between this life and the next. Raped and murdered, she can’t let her family go; even more compellingly, she can’t let her murderer go, willing him on to the one fateful mistake which will lead to his capture.

Meanwhile, everyone around her is dealing with his or her grief in different ways as time slips by.

Sister Lindsey – outstanding from Fanta Barrie – moves on, but with compassion. Dad Jack, maybe the night’s best performance from Jack Sandle, cannot move forward, trapped in his grief and his absolute conviction – right as it turns out, but seemingly unprovable – that he knows exactly who the killer is, a suitably creepy Nicholas Khan.

Susie’s murder ripples persuasively and heartbreakingly through those closest to her, a devastating expose of the impact of crime.

Lavery’s adaptation opens up Sebold’s agonising and yet somehow hopeful world before our eyes. The sparse largely black set, with the overhead mirror, is the perfect springboard. The result is mesmerising. Melly Still’s direction is remarkable.

What lingers most at the end, though, is an achingly beautiful on-stage rendition of Both Sides Now. Appropriate. It’s precisely what the play has given us.

Phil Hewitt

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