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LET THE RIGHT ONE IN Oskar worthy performance

One of the most critically acclaimed vampire films of all time, Let The Right One In is making a transition to the stage this week, thanks to Black Swan State Theatre Company. Adapted for the stage by playwright Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) Let The Right One In marks the Black Swan directorial debut of new Artistic Director Clare Watson. This adaption of the film (and the John Ajvide Lindqvist novel that it is based upon) tells the story of the child vampire Eli, and her friendship with the socially awkward and isolated Oskar. DAVID O’CONNELL spoke to Ian Michael (who’s previous work was the one-man show about the stolen generation Hart) the actor playing Oskar, about challenging his inner child in this dark, bloody, yet somehow still touching tale about young friendship and love. Let The Right One In plays from November 15 to December 3 at the Heath Ledger Theatre.

You were saying last night (we had met at a panel for Let The Right One In the previous night) that there was a lot of blank pages in terms of character notes (in the play) for Oskar, how did you go about making the character your own?

It was really interesting! I had a thought about that after our chat, and l feel that the adaptation comes very close to the film. We’ve had lots of conversations in the rehearsal room about the play being filmic, and the conversation can be incredibly intimate and you can have these really lovely small moments (as we have microphones on as well). As an actor you rely on context and background to create your character, and with this, as it was more filmic (it) was more of a challenge. So it was more about thinking about Oskar, what people say about him, what he says about himself, and I went back to the book to find detail. So throughout the rehearsal process Claire and I had conversations about Oskar possibly being on the Autism spectrum, and finding all the clues in the text, and doing some research about young people on the spectrum, and finding those things linking up. I’ve been able to unlock a lot about him from that, but I’ve been finding him a challenge, definitely. It’s mostly finding the truth in him, and not making him a caricature of a teenager.

What’s it like playing a 12 year old, when you’re a 28 year old?

You know what, my whole entire career has been playing teenagers, so it’s not anything new. Although Oskar is the youngest character that I’ve ever played. I don’t see it as any diferent from any other character, my process hasn’t changed – although as the weeks go on I do feel younger. I’ve felt quite little, and I guess as a actor your thought processes skew a bit when you are involved in someone else is life.

When you were first introduced to me, you commented that you were playing in the pool today, and I could totally see you channeling your inner child…

Totally. I got into acting because I had such a huge imagination as a kid, and I guess as an actor and as an audience you rely on that. imagination to tell stories that wouldn’t just happen on the street. Oskar plays in sandpits and that’s totally OK for him. He’s quiet isolated, and socially isolated, he’s not a to social groups. So it’s quiet challenging and fun to find all the things that make a 12 year old.

I believe you have one 13 year old keeping an eagle eye on your performance, and providing advise.

Oh yes! Ivy (Clare’s daughter) is my go to. She has this thing where “I don’t like it where actors do pigeon toe feet” (to appear child-like). So every time I feel my body doing that I stop myself, or Ivy will tell me off. It’s been really beautiful to have her in the room, to find the truth in something she’s been really vital.

Were there any themes to the work which particularly resonated with you?

I saw the film by accident on SBS, and couldn’t turn it off. Then I completely forgot about it till I got the offer last year and read the script, and was immediately obsessed with these people and their story. We went deeper in the rehearsal room about isolation and the loss of communication and bullying. I got bullied in high school, not as bad as Oskar, but I could relate to that and public housing and fractured relationships. The scenes were very close to home. And to Perth, with Blackeberg being this tiny isolated suburb in Stockholm, and Perth being the most isolated city in the world. We’re finding all these connections in a way.

I was going to ask about that. Where you’ve still kept the Swedish setting, have you done much to adapt the play to Australia?

It’s about findings those connections, and changing some words like, ‘sweets’ to ‘lollies’. We’re all doing it with our accents, and the soundtrack is quite Australian, and the sound clips are quite Australian.

Is there one moment you are excited to see how audiences react to?

There’s so many actually. I’m in almost every scene so I don’t get time to see how the audience reacts, as I’m getting changed or climbing stairs. All the things Sophia (Eli) does on this ginormous set, are incredible to watch. Lot’s of blood and she was rigged for a harness last night. So many things I’ve never seen onstage before. There’s a pool I’m in, a tank, for a whole scene that’s suspended nine meters above the set. Somethings that audiences have never seen before, it’s grand and epic and supported by beautiful design we’ve got as well.

Can we take a moment to discuss the stage itself, because it sounds phenomenal?

It’s inspired by the Rubik Cube that Oskar and Eli share as a token of friendship. Set in these different booths, nine meters high and there are nine booths. Everyone of these booths can become a different place in the story, but they can switch as well. Oskar and Eli are separated in different rooms, so there’s all these different concepts of connection and difference. The set tells a big part of the disconnect between characters, strengthening that theme of disconnect and isolation.

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