Review: The Lovely Bones at Birmingham Rep

By Dave Massey

Please note: This production contains scenes and references relating to sexual assault and rape throughout.

The Lovely Bones at Birmingham Rep

Alice Sebold’s best-selling novel The Lovely Bones is at Birmingham Rep until 10th November. Adapted for the stage by Bryony Lavery and directed by Melly Still. I was at first worried that this show would be far to upsetting for me to sit through. Luckily this is a warm retelling full of heart which doesn’t shy away from the subject matters. I really loved it!

Keith Dunphy and Charlotte Beaumont photo by Sheila Burnett
Keith Dunphy and Charlotte Beaumont photo by Sheila Burnett

The Lovely Bones begins in a small town in Pennsylvania in 1973 as Susie Salmon (Charlotte Beaumont) is taken to a makeshift bunker by Mr Harvey (Keith Dunphy) on her way home from school one day. He stops Susie from leaving the bunker and rapes her, and then kills her. Suddenly we see Susie is dead and in her own version of heaven, some sort of limbo heaven with Franny (Bhawna Bhawsar) an older lady there to help direct her in the afterlife.

A short time later Susie’s father Jack (Jack Sandle) is on the phone to the police to report Susie missing. Susie’s Mother Abigail (Emily Bevan) and her sister Lindsay (Ayoola Smart) become aware of Susie being missing but the family try and protect the youngest child Buckley (Natasha Cottriall) from knowing what is happening.

Susie watches down from her heaven as Mr Harvey disposes of Susie’s remains and then when the police investigate he denies any knowledge even being near Susie and pretends not to know her name. Instead the local police (Pete Ashmore and Susan Bovell) point the finger at a local Indian teenager who has moved from England called Ray Singh (Karan Gill). But Susie has more power in heaven than she realises and discovers that she can still impact on the lives of those below. She sets about using this power.

The Lovely Bones photo by Sheila Burnett

The set is fairly simple but effectively lit, white chalk in a rectangle represent the boundaries of Susie’s heaven, the rest of the set is with two wooden boxes, and a row of corn at the mid part of the stage, a huge semi-clear mirror hangs from the roof at an angle so we the audience are actually looking from above.

The music is loud brash and of its time, marking the transition of years, time must move differently in heaven as we jump cut through conversations, meetings and situations.

Charlotte Beaumont expertly heads up the cast as Susie, optimistic, bright and unflinching she invites into this view of Susie’s heaven, the echo on her voice adds an otherworldly quality to the story, The rest of the cast also deliver their parts in a way that lets you know this is no ordinary drama.

A very sad story with a huge heart and lots of warmth this is told in a single act which lasts for one hour and forty minutes. It’s a brave, stark and bold production that you should go see if you get chance.

The Lovely Bones is at Birmingham Rep until 10th November. Book tickets here:

This isn’t a sponsored post. #BrumHour saw The Lovely Bones at the invitation of Birmingham Rep.