Thursday 12 October 2023

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane - Review

Noel Coward Theatre, London


Based on the book by Neil Gaiman
Adapted by Joel Horwood
Directed by Katy Rudd

Millie Hikasa and Keir Ogilvy

A wonderful exploration of childhood, imagination and memory, the National Theatre production of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane returns from a UK tour to take up a brief residence at the Noel Coward Theatre. 

Making a remarkable West End debut, Keir Ogilvy plays the 12 year-old Boy growing up in England’s rural Sussex. He has struggled to make friends, his mother is no longer around and his family home is shared with Dad (Trevor Fox) and Sis (Laurie Ogden). It’s a neat touch denying these roles any individual names for in that depersonalisation they become us all and as Boy explores his fantasies and nightmares along with complex family relationships, there are moments (in the sometimes lengthy 2½ hours) that will resonate across the audience.

The fantasy of the story is brought to life beautifully on stage by the characters that the Boy encounters in his youth. Millie Hikasa is Lettie, Boy’s magical pal who Is not quite what she seems and who guides and protects him on his journey of discovery. There is charming work from Finty Williams as Lettie’s grandmother and the inspired creation of Ursula, played by Charlie Brooks, who is the nemesis of all things good and the villain of the piece who also meddles with some psycho-sexual manipulation of the Boy (nothing too provocative mind you) that cleverly explores the susceptible curiosity of a child’s mind.

The acting is top-notch throughout, but above all it is the ingenuity of the show’s puppetry, lighting and outstanding physical theatre that gives the evening its breathtaking charm. It is left to a black clad ensemble of four to deliver the production’s heavy lifting and it is the visual beauty of these effects, free of any modern electronic trickery or CGI that give the story an ethereal honesty. What you see is what you get. The illusions are outstanding.

An evening of exciting theatre that will appeal to all adults and kids who can lose themselves in a thrilling story, beautifully told.

Runs until 25th November
Photo credit: Brinkhoff Moegenburg

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