The Ocean at the End of the Lane- What a show!
I was invited to come and watch The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the Wales Millennium Centre and I still can’t believe what I saw. This show is a masterpiece of dark fantasy and the twisted childhood imagination.
Adapted by Joel Hoorwood from the book by Neil Gaiman, who also created best-selling work such as Good Omens, Coraline, Sandman and Stardust, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a terrifically dark tale that follows a 12-year-old boy who is thrown into a world of memory and magic when he’s shown the Ocean at the end of the lane by his delightfully mysterious new friend, Lettie. From the innocence of childhood friendship to the terrors that lurk in the dark, this is a show that will shake you to your core and have you sat on the edge of your seat from the very start.
Aside from the incredible story, this show was visually stunning. When the audience arrives before the show starts, they are greeted by a stunning forestry staging. With dark twisted roots layered around the edge of the stage and a large dark tunnel at its centre. The namesake Ocean resides where the audience is, pulling us into their fantasy world.
The clever use of lighting gave this show that little extra magic. By keeping the upstage dark, it allowed a sense of mystery as characters seemed to come out of nowhere. In a particular seen with Ursula (or the Flea) left the audience’s mouths agape, as they used several doors with brightly lit frames to give the appearance she was coming teleporting across the stage. It was true theatre magic. To translate a story of this fantastical magnitude is no small task, but from the brilliant minds of Director Katy Rudd, Set Designer Fly Davis and Light Designer Paule Constable, Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece was brought to life on stage. And with the added spectacle of puppet mastery by Samuel Wyer, this show redefined the magic of theatre.
And hats off to this talented cast. It’s not easy to (accurately) play children as young as 12 when your an adult. It can often come across as clumsy, cringe-y and cliché but actors Keir Ogilvy as the Boy and Millie Hikasa as Lettie hit the nail on the head. Capturing that child-like wonder and enthusiasm perfectly. Everything from their speech, movements, even to the way children cry showed just how talented they are. The Hempstock family: Ginnie portrayed by Kemi-Bo Jacobs and Old Mrs Hempstock portrayed by Finty Williams had a great dynamic on stage. And the boy’s Dad, portrayed by Trevor Fox both delighted and terrified the audience, as we watched the monsters twist his mind to change from a kind, caring father-figure to something much darker.
Charlie Brooks as Ursula (or the Flea) was disturbingly brilliant, the dark nature of her character left shivers down my spine. The well known TV actress gave us a truly spectacular performance.
I found the use of the ensemble cast to be very interesting. Aside from the intriguing, twisted movement sequences by Movement Director, Steven Hoggett, which brought the beasts of the Edge to life. The use of the Ensemble to move the set pieces like stage crew but with the stuble interactions with the main cast gave it a powerful, magical feel. It projected a further sense of mystery. As if the characters were always being watched by the dark creatures that lurked close by.
A chilling clash of the wonders of childhood imagination, the shuddering realities of adult life and the monsters that wait in the dark. But although I do my best, no words can truly capture the magnificence of this show. It must be seen to be believed.
Ocean at the End of the Lane will be at the Wales Millennium Centre until the 3rd of June so get your tickets now because they’re selling out fast!