The Ocean at the End of the Lane is as deep as the sea; so rich in emotions that it is easy to get swept away by the tidal waves in this stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book. It truly is a theatrical masterpiece, I have not seen anything like it in recent years. The Ocean at the End of the Lane deals with memories, the past, and the fact that forgetting is sometimes a protective mechanism. It is about magic, and friendship, and families, and how you lose some of these things while growing up, until you can’t see the magic underneath your feet.

Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

The story is too complex for a short summary and needs to be read or – better yet – experienced. It is centres around a man who follows an impulse after his father’s funeral and drives to an old farmhouse at the end of the street where he used to play. There he meets an old woman and the memories of a magical but also dramatic time, alongside the memories of a very special little girl. The small duck pond in front of him expands and becomes an ocean, a rip in between, and he relives the adventures, horrors, and losses of that time. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is certainly not easy fare and has some very emotional and disturbing moments. But though it may be as deep as the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, it has wonderful moments as light as the sparkling sun reflected on the surface of the sea.

In Joel Horwood’s stage adaption, everything comes together naturally. The phenomenal sound design by Ian Dickinson in combination with the compositions by Jherek Bischoff create an almost cinematic musical background that give a further dimension to the show and draw the viewer even deeper into the respective scene. Additionally, the on-point lighting by Paule Constable is fantastically set and creates various illusions – this combination really leaves a lasting impression.

The elaborate stage design by Fly Davis is also impressive, with just a few props and little changes a simple house, a cosy and rustic farmhouse, and a threatening forest are created. Not to mention the ocean you can dive into every now and then. Katy Rudd’s direction ensures that even the set changes are turned into something special.

But we do need to talk about the choreography and puppetry! Steven Hoggett (Movement Director) and Finn Caldwell (Puppetry Director) create a larger-than-life illusion that is nestled incredibly well in between the sound, the light, and the stage.

Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

But what is most impressive is the dynamic between the two young main actors, Keir Ogilvy (The Boy) and Millie Hikasa (Lettie Hempstock), who bring a very special connection to the stage. Their interaction is touching, and it is exciting to see how this develops over time. This cast has been touring, and I was pleased to see how much they have eased into their roles since I last saw them in Wimbledon. Ogilvy in particular displays a great variety of facial expressions and intonations. He goes from a jittery, shy 12-year-old who loves to lose himself in his books to someone who would give up everything for his friends and family. Hikasa is not necessarily the reason, but the catalyst for this development as she takes him on this magical and dangerous adventure to the edges of the world.

Alongside them, the entire cast is just remarkable. The way Trevor Fox (Dad) goes through the motions and how Finty Williams (Old Mrs Hempstock) carefully balances grandmotherly warmth and ancient powerful being left me speechless at times.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is probably the most well rounded production I have seen in a while – wholesome and healing.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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