The Lovely Bones at Chichester Festival Theatre – review

The Lovely Bones heads to Chichester
The Lovely Bones heads to Chichester

Let’s face it, there’s nothing lovely about the story-line on which this play is constructed.

A 14-year-old girl raped and murdered near her home, robbed of her potential and all that life promised, and now confined within a rectangular space in Heaven.

But Susie Salmon (Charlotte Beaumont) will not let go of the life and the family from which she was brutally removed.

She is determined to bring her killer to justice - a man whose many other young victims join forces with her beyond the great divide - as well as to watch over her family.

It is a frustrating, frequently dispiriting enterprise for her.

Not only can those she most loved not hear her but she is pricked by the reality that they are all moving on with their lives without her.

But for a play about death - based on Alice Sebold’s extraordinary book - this production sparkles with vitality.

A largely youthful cast maintains a swift and energising pace interspersed with some music and an eerie mirrored set bringing dimension, humour and pathos.

As for Beaumont, she never allows her beautifully assured and perfectly pitched portrayal of anger and loss to slip into the mire of self-pity.

A fleeting chance to live out her passion for Ray through the body of another cements both the sense of natural justice and completion.

So themes as dark and unpleasant as it is possible to imagine are turned with consummate ease and professionalism into a beacon of hope - even on a night when the theatre outside is hammered with rain and the fallen autumn leaves swirl across the entrance with ominous portent.

By Gary Shipton