'The Lovely Bones' was a novel first, written by Alice Sebold and published in 2002. Next, it was adapted for our screens in 2009. Finally, a decade later, on 22nd October 2019, the town of Kingston was fortunate enough to have a talented cast of actors bring it to life at the Rose Theatre.

With 4 stars from The Reviews Hub under its belt, it was a cleverly adapted and thoroughly engaging rendition which left the audience touched, stunned and utterly blown away! On the opening night, the Rose Theatre was a hub of excitement and anticipation as an eager audience awaited an evening of tears, laughter and raw emotion. Many were already familiar with the story due to reading the novel previously - their expectations were sky high and fortunately, they weren’t disappointed. Those who had little prior knowledge of the novel were also expecting great things; the Rose Theatre is known for putting on stellar performances.

'The Lovely Bones' is the story of 14 year old Susie Salmon, played by actress Charlotte Beaumont. Just like any ordinary teenager, Susie lives a happy, fulfilled life, crushing on a boy and being fond of her charm bracelet. However, both her life and her virginity are mercilessly snatched away by her neighbour, Mr Harvey, who takes a disturbing liking in young girls and perfectly encapsulates one of the many dangers girls face today: child predators.

Throughout the majority of the play, the protagonist, Susie, is dead. Instead of focusing on her life before dying, it focuses on the heartbreak, grief and desire to truly live again that her family goes through. Whilst this deep and profound grief leaves Susie’s father, Jack, obsessed with finding out who killed his beloved daughter, it is too much for her mother, igniting within her a distinctive desire to rediscover life once more. Meanwhile, Susie’s sister, Lindsey, matures, and though she never stops missing Susie, Lindsey goes on to experience things the young Susie had only dreamed of.

With a large tilted mirror dominating the set design, giving the audience a dual perspective of Susie’s heaven and life on Earth, the play was far from ordinary. This feature not only encouraged additional engagement from the audience, but also portrayed how our loved ones potentially watch over us in their heavens. Since the protagonist is in a completely different location to her family, reflecting this on stage was no easy feat. The use of the mirror was original, intelligent and brilliant – no one had been expecting it.

A mixture of light-hearted humour, flashbacks and carefully chosen music ensured 'The Lovely Bones' was a celebration of humanity. The play began with loud rock music and bright lights, a taster of the astounding music and lighting to follow, which gave it a flair beyond words. It finished with the loud, carefree dance solo of Susie, happy that her killer had been identified and paid the price for his actions, and that her family had finally found peace.

Although consisting of only 13 members, the cast was incredible, with many individuals doubling up roles. Charlotte Beaumont managed to portray Susie just as she is supposed to be: relatable, strong and funny. Jack Salmon, played by Jack Sandle, spiralled through overpowering grief whilst Abigail Salmon (Susie’s mother), depicted by Emily Bevan, slowly confronted complex emotions which lead to adultery and departure. Anna H, an audience member, commented, “It was so beautifully done; I’ve read the book and watched the film, but neither compared to what I just witnessed.”

Award-winning playwright Bryony Lavery is the mastermind behind this adaption, and Rose Associate Artist Melly Still is the director. The combination of their original thinking and the dedication of the performers allowed the audience to experience a whirlwind of emotions and to truly reevaluate what is of true importance in their own lives. Though dealing with sensitive topics like rape, sexuality and the afterlife, 'The Lovely Bones' was thoroughly enjoyed by the entire audience.

The Rose Theatre and the accomplished cast put on the performance for five nights in Kingston. Currently, 'The Lovely Bones' is on a UK tour, with the next performance being held on November 1st at the Hackney Empire theatre in London. Powerful and interesting, it’s a play worth seeing. Be prepared to feel anger and disgust at Mr Harvey, impatience at the long, painstaking time it takes for everyone on Earth to realise who killed Susie and, finally, happiness when Susie’s family comes together at last. This play isn’t to be missed.

By Alex Pyatnytska, Esher College