The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 22 July 2023
When I previously reviewed this show, I finished the review stating that I would love to see it again. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, based upon the novel by Neil Gaiman, is back in the north east and it has lost none of it's power.
This is a fantasy that will appeal to those of teenage years and above. Just like a Terry Gilliam movie (I'm still thinking The Fisher King here) I wouldn't recommend this for younger children. The show is very dramatic in how it unfolds.
So what is it about...with no spoilers (obviously!). It starts with the funeral in modern day of Dad. His son attends and finds himself going back to a place of his childhood. He meets up with Old Mrs Hempstock (Finty Williams) who runs the local diary farm. They reminisce about how, back in 1983, he used to play with their granddaughter Lettie (Millie Hikasa) next to their fish pond - the pond Lettie called "The Ocean".
Quickly the clock moves back to 1983. The Boy (Keir Ogilvy) finds their lodger has died in a car and the police ask him to move on. Lettie appears and suggests that he plays with her. She introduces the boy to her "Ocean", her mother (Kemi-Bo Jacobs) and grandmother. He enjoys porridge before going back home to his Dad (Trevor Fox) and sister (Laurie Ogden). His Dad acknowledges that he needs to find a new lodger and very quickly the very-keen-to-please Ursula (Charlie Brooks) appears on the scene.
In this play stuff is not what it seems and the Boy's world quickly unravels. Indeed as a member of the audience you will have a lot of unanswered questions at the interval. Don't worry - the final third does a canny job of weaving the six or so sub plots back into a satisfying whole.
Whilst the obvious cast in the spotlight are developing the story, an ensemble dress in back do much more than move a bit of furniture around. Sometimes, by simply stopping in the tracks during the scene changes, they add to the pace and atmosphere of the piece. Director Katy Rudd and movement director Steven Hoggett have had a stamp on the feel of the show.
The set design by Fly Davis and Lighting from Paule Constable are also a big feature and very much take a part in the story telling.
Personally I think the show is evenly paced though I wouldn't want it to be any longer. You do find yourself getting involved with the central characters - which makes some of the scenes even more shocking - possibly even triggering.
This is one of those shows that is hard to describe but comes highly recommended. It is a beautiful example of theatre-craft and story telling. It draws you in and then spits you out. A great cast work very hard (not to mention a team behind the scenes that help pull of the spells of magic).
This is currently a unique show that is as good as people say it is. And yes, it made a lot more sense on the second viewing!
Review: Stephen Oliver
The Ocean at the End of the Lane plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Tuesday 11 – Saturday 22 July 2023. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.