The Ocean at the End of the Lane Review [The Curve, Leicester]

The Ocean at the End of the Lane | Photography: (c) Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

The five star thunderous spectacular by The National Theatre’s Neil Gaiman adaption is hauntingly memorable.

Neil Gaiman, adapted by Joel Horwood and directed by Katy Rudd
National Theatre
The Curve, Leicester
January 31 to 11 February 2023

Tickets available:

The National Theatre’s critically acclaimed The Ocean at the End of the Lane based on the best-selling novel by Neil Gaiman has arrived to The Curve, Leicester and what a spectacular evening of thrills, chills and, surprisingly, humour, you’ll be in for.

The ensemble are a 17-strong cast featuring Charlie Brooks as Ursula, Daniel Cornish as Alternate Boy, Trevor Fox as Dad, Millie Hikasa as Lettie Hempstock. Kemi-Bo Jacobs as Ginnie Hempstock, Laurie Ogden as Sis, Keir Ogilvy as Boy and Finty Williams as Old Mrs Hempstock. Also featuring Emma-Jane Goodwin, Lewis Howard, Jasmeen James as understudies and Paolo Guidi, Ronnie Lee, Aimee McGoldrick and Domonic Ramsden as ensemble.

I was particularly awe-struck by the force of Old Mrs Hempstock (Williams) and the incredibly charming Hikasa as Lettie. Brooks played an incredible villain and often I found myself tracking her on stage to see her devious facial expressions and incredible body language.

Transition wise, Ocean at the End of the Lane had this down. The smoothness was undeniably fantastic. The moment between waiting to find out if Boy wanted to go to Lettie’s for pancakes was one to remember. It just highlighted how the stage production and transitions kept the production moving slick with effortless ease.

Imagination combined with a sprinkling of magic and a whole heap of fantasy, The Ocean at the End of the Lane encourages us all to look beyond the reality and think a little deeper. You’ll be questioning that all is not what it seems whilst being drawn into the story that takes your hand and pulls you head first heart racing.

With Katy Rudd’s direction, looming branches and sparkling lights adorn the stage gently leading you into the fantasy farm, before plummeting us back to the 80s setting the tone for the darkness about to unfold.

The plot itself is dark and intriguing seemingly using magic to tackle and highlight socio-political problems. Boy (Cornish) is bereft from his mothers passing and desperate to be ‘a grown up’ for dad (Fox), dad is anguished and so impacted by grief desperate to not be his own father whilst simultaneously showing clear signs of generational trauma. It is truly a masterpiece for psychology students to unpick.

Boy is so desperate to believe that Ursula forced his dad to change. But maybe that’s the thing. Maybe we’re all monsters in one form or another? Maybe we all have demons within ourselves that are lurking on the edge, just waiting to be bound back for eternity by the ones we love. Maybe a little bit of love to keep the demons at bay is the real magic of it all.

Without sharing too many spoilers, I wanted to touch upon two of my favourite scenes. Ursula (Brooks) reveals that she is the flea. Upon this, she leaves the room with Sis (Ogden) out of the dining room and walks off-stage before instantly re-entering that same door centre stage. The audible gasp from the audience and moment of wow is one that really makes you appreciate live theatre and feel a part of something big. The execution of the trick was truly remarkable, with the trick being repeated several times with moments of complete darkness and surprise entrances from Brooks hugely complemented by the sound, lighting and reaction of the audience each time.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane | Photography: (c) Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Boy (Cornish) standing in the fairy ring battling with demons disguised as his own friends and family is another personal scene favourite. The sheer fear has you wondering whether this is all real at all, is this a boy finding comfort in fantasy to cope and process with a lonely and abusive childhood? Is this a metaphor that the real monsters are those amongst us and supernatural aren’t necessarily the bad guy? Is ‘Snip and Stitch’ really just a metaphor to repress trauma? The dive into the ocean with puppets and props is a wonder to see. It was this moment of calm and serenity that prepared you for the calm before the storm. And what a storm it was about to crash.

For a night of magic, wonder and haunting chills – grab your tickets to see The Ocean at the End of the Lane and dive deep into an ocean of adventure which will grab your hand and remind you to look deeper, think harder and remember, all is never, ever, as it seems.

With thanks to The Curve Leicester for press tickets.


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