The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review
28 March – 01 April 2023

Produced by National Theatre UK

The novel ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ was written by Neil Gaiman and first published in 2013. It was well received and won the Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards. This adaptation is by the National Theatre, London, and was first performed in 2021. This touring production is travelling extensively around Great Britain with its short run in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, along with dates in Belfast last week, being its only dates in Ireland.

It tells the story of a young boy (Keir Ogilvy/ David Cornish) who lives in a house with his Dad (Trevor Fox) and his younger sister. His mother has recently died and the family have taken in various lodgers to make ends meet. After one of their lodgers meets a grisly end, the boy meets Lettie Hempstock (Millie Hikasa) who lives on a farm beside their house. The two become quick friends and Lettie lets the boy see a magical world that has more in common with his favourite books than reality. After one night with Lettie, the boy returns home to find a new lodger in his house, called Ursula (Charlie Brooks). On the surface, she seems perfect in every way, but the reality is quite different.

This new production by the National Theatre is aimed at young adults, with a fantasy theme and vibrant style. It has much in common with recent National Theatre productions aimed at a similar audience, such as War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. The main character has a love of the Hobbit and the Narnia novels, and while it is set in more modern times, there is magic in the air! The production uses puppets, along with creative costumes and lighting, to create this fantastical world.

The age guidance for the production suggests the piece is suitable for ages 12+, so while it is aimed primarily at a younger audience it is for teenagers and above. There is a feel of Stranger Things about the synth-based soundtrack and the visuals of the piece. The dark moody lighting and strong teenage characters keep the action moving throughout.

While the cast is not filled with household names, Charlie Brooks will be known to many for her time in East Enders. She indulges in her dark side playing the malevolent creature known as Ursula. The two main characters are the teenagers, with Boy (played by Keir Ogilvy/ David Cornish) being suitably wide-eyed and innocent. This friend, Lettie Hempstock (played by Millie Hikasa) adds warmth and compassion whenever she is on stage.

It’s a long time since Neil Gaiman wrote the Sandman, but its recent adaptation for Netflix has pushed his name to the forefront of our minds. This is an impressive adaptation of the novel that shows the talents of the National Theatre. They recreate the magic of the novel, with visual trickery which is quite dazzling and captures the imagination. In truth, the National Theatre have vast experience with this style of production and they are in a league of their own. For any fan of Neil Gaiman or the fantasy genre, this is not to be missed!

Duration: 2 hours and 35 mins, including interval

Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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