Press Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A spectacle that needs to be seen!

From the imagination of Neil Gaiman, best-selling author of Coraline, Good Omens and The Sandman, comes the National Theatre’s major new stage adaptation of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Returning to his childhood home, a man finds himself beside the pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. He’s transported to his 12th birthday when his remarkable friend Lettie claimed it wasn’t a pond, but an ocean – a place where everything is possible… Plunged into a magical world, their survival depends on their ability to reckon with ancient forces that threaten to destroy everything around them.

The production manages to perfectly encapsulate both the wonder and the terror of Gaiman’s world, bringing a truly fantastical spectacle to the stage. As audience members, we are transported into this magical realm, along with the characters, as we have our eyes opened to things we would not think possible, but also to the importance of the world right on our doorstep. Delving into themes of family, friendship, love, loss and memory, the script never shies away from tackling difficult subjects, making them accessible to a younger audience without ever feeling patronising or sugarcoated.

The shining jewel in the crown of this show is absolutely its production quality and design work. With beautiful sets, breathtaking puppetry and flawlessly slick choreography, it is easy to say why The Ocean at the End of the Lane is so critically acclaimed – this show truly is a spectacle. Sharing a theatrical and stylistic vocabulary with the National Theatre’s modern classic The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the design choices by the team beautifully elevate the fantastical elements of the script, and make for an endlessly engaging experience.

This combination of great lighting and sound design is paired with the fiendishly clever use of physical theatre. Performed by the play’s ensemble, these choreographed sequences feature throughout, utilised to creatively transition from scene to scene, but more notably to represent the characters’ struggles (both in fighting mystical creatures and in navigating their emotional journeys). It was a really nice addition to the production, that gave it a real flair and identity, which is sure to leave a lasting impression.

The production stars Charlie Brooks (Eastenders) as the deliciously malevolent Ursula, a demonic creature who has clawed her way into our world. Brooks plays the role with a sinister sense of glee; able to give her audience reason to laugh as well as gasp and shriek in equal measure. Daniel Cornish plays our protagonist, a young boy being introduced to this incredible world, and is able to tap into the childlike wonder and deep-rooted fear when finding himself in these inexplicable situations. He is guided through his journey by the peculiar Hempstock family – new friend Lettie (Millie Hikasa), her mother Ginnie (Kemi-Bo Jacobs) and grandmother Old Mrs Hempstock (Emma-Jane Goodwin), all of whom do a brilliant job, helping both the boy and the audience to understand their world. In a great dramatic performance, Trevor Fox plays the boy’s father, struggling to navigate his way through life as a newly single father, after the recent death of his wife. All of the characters are excellently realised by the cast, grounding the fantastical story with a solid emotional core.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane has amazed and captivated audiences all over the country, and it is not difficult to see why. Sporting amazing design work, great performances, creative choreography and an inventively dark fairytale of a story, this play is surely set to be one of the National Theatre’s standout productions. It’s Stranger Things meets The Spiderwick Chronicles – and it is a spectacle that needs to be seen!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane will be on stage at the Alexandra Theatre from Tuesday 23rd May to Saturday 27th May. Get your tickets here!


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