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The Lovely Bones at Northern Stage | Review

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Every time Steve and I visit Northern Stage, we leave dreaming of the day where babysitters are no longer required and we can buy a Northern Stage season pass and visit the theatre on a more regular basis. Nothing fills my soul more than a night at the theatre and I like to watch everything from the classics to modern and contemporary. I would say that Northern Stage is probably our favourite theatre in Newcastle and performances here always inspire, encourage conversation, are progressive and break boundaries. We still talk about performances we watched at Northern Stage five years ago - they generally leave a lasting impression. 



There was one production (other than A Christmas Carol later this year) which I did not want to miss this year and that was the stage debut of The Lovely Bones at Northern Stage. A co-production between Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Royal & Derngate, Northampton and Northern Stage in association with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, the stage adaptation of the Alice Seabold's best-selling novel is playing at Northern Stage from 9-20 October. Tickets are available from just £10. 


I first read The Lovely Bones back in 2009 when the film was released (a little late to the party as it was published in 2002 - like so many stories, I do not rate the film but loved the book).  Now one of the best-selling novels of the 21st Century, the coming-of-age tale tells the story of 14-year-old Susie Salmon who is just like any other girl her age, except for one big difference - Susie is dead. I vividly remember sitting under a tree as a baby Heidi slept in her pushchair whilst we were on holiday in Turkey and Steve and Harry played in the pool in front of us and reading the book from cover to cover and crying my eyes out. It's one of those stories which really pulls at the heartstrings as it explores how families cope with grief and tragedy. I would say it's one of the few books in life that has really stayed with me forever and left a lasting impression.


The stage production condenses the 300+ page story into just 100 minutes (with no interval) and is fast-paced with no lingering scenes. Starring Charlotte Beaumont (from Broadchurch) as Susie alongside a talented cast, the story transfers really well onto stage. I went along with my friend Cat who had not read the book and it was lovely to see that opening night was sold out. We both loved the performance and again, it left a lasting impression but in a different way to the book.

First of all, the whole cast is superb. Usually, it's easy for me to pick a couple of cast members out as my favourites but here, I'd give them all a 10/10. The Lovely Bones is superbly acted out and it's so intimate that I often felt as if I was sitting in the Salmons' front room with them. The characters are all relatable and as an audience, we remembered our first love, empathised with Susie's mum's need to escape and laughed along as the family dynamic reminded us so much of our own.

Due to the nature of the story, this intimacy can sometimes be uncomfortable and a couple of the scenes were difficult to watch (especially the rape and murder of Susie). It is fairly loud in places too and I jumped out of my seat on more than one occasion. The story features themes and topics which aren't exactly the most uplifting - rape, marital affairs, desire, death and grief are not shied away from. Like reading the book, I expected to leave in tears. But the stage show is actually strangely uplifting and I left feeling like there is no better time than the present to grip life by the horns and live it to the full.

There were some unexpected comedy moments - the portrayal of the family pet dog and grannie's arrival all raised a few laughs. The music was canny too and really helped to set the tone - expect appearances from Tears for Fears and Bowie.

As with all Northern Stage productions, I can't not mention the staging. The use of mirrors, lights and music really forces you to believe that Susie Salmon is dead and that her family can't see her. As an audience member watching from the sidelines, it kind of gives you Susie's perspective too.


Recommended for grown-ups and young adults aged 11+, there are adult themes of sexual trauma, abuse and exploration so it's not a show I'd rush to watch with Heidi or Harry. If they were a little older and mature for their age (say aged 14+), I'd be more inclined to take them and The Lovely Bones is a chance to watch a different type of theatre with your older teens and grown-up children. I think it's probably best suited to a girls night out though and I'd recommend watching with a theatre-loving friend as I did. 

The Lovely Bones continues at Northern Stage until 20 October. Tickets are available from just £10 here


As a side note, if you're looking for somewhere to grab a bite to eat pre-theatre, I highly recommend La Yuan which is just a short walk away. Check out Steve's review here. 


Disclosure: We were invited along to press night in return for this honest review. All thoughts and words are our own. 
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2 comments

  1. I loved it. Can't believe nearly 2 hours went by in a flash. Amazing staging, soundtrack and acting. And totally agree about the age thing. I wouldn't take my 11 year old but I'd love to see it again!.

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I always love reading your thoughts and comments - Sam x

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