Tag Archives: National Theatre

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane


New Victoria Theatre

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE at the New Victoria Theatre | UK Tour



“a wealth of eye catching staging and sound effects”


The Ocean at the End of the Lane, based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same title, adapted by Joel Horwood, and directed by Katy Rudd, will not disappoint Gaiman fans. This production, which opened at the National Theatre in 2019, is now touring at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking. This show is a treat for those who enjoy spectacle. It has a wealth of eye catching staging and sound effects, plus a seamless merging of human actors and puppets of all shapes and sizes. The story is about a twelve year old boy, told from his perspective, and it is, in typical Gaiman fashion, a nightmarish tale. It begins with a suicide in a car.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is set in a place both familiar, and deeply and thrillingly strange. A boy of the verge of adolescence finds himself battling forces beyond his imagination and control, assisted only by his best friend, Lettie. Life has been pretty unremarkable for the Boy and his family until the night when their lodger’s body is discovered in the family car. The world as the Boy knows it suddenly becomes unrecognizable, and inexplicable. Together, he and Lettie attempt to banish the supernatural forces unleashed by the suicide into their placid neighbourhood. It turns out that Lettie and her family are pretty strange also, hiding in plain sight in an old farmhouse that appears to have existed forever. Lettie is similarly timeless, showing the Boy a duck pond that can become an ocean, and how to fight a flea that has become a monster beyond imagining. Horwood’s adaptation  is true to its sources, but it does suffer from a common problem when adapting novels to the stage. Sooner or later, the dramatic action gets swallowed up by the exposition, and the pace begins to drag. But there is so much going on visually in in this production that most audiences will not mind. The sympathetic characters, and the strength of the story, will keep people happily engaged.

Despite the lengthy playing time of play, time passes quickly enough in the company of Katy Rudd’s imaginative direction, and her talented band of actors and puppeteers. There is the set, designed by Fly Davis, which gives us a sense of a mysterious dark space framed by tree branches, and which also light up like Christmas trees when occasion demands. There’s a nice shift between the every day clothing of the Boy and his family, with the outlandish, out of time clothes of Lettie, her mother and grandmother (designed by Samuel Wyer, who also designed the puppets.) Paule Constable’s lighting is likewise essential for a well defined shift between worlds. But the real power of this production is wielded by the actors and puppeteers, who not only bring the main characters to life, but the constantly changing sets as well. With a nod to the techniques of bunraku, figures dressed in black are constantly bringing furniture on and off the stage. More frighteningly, they create the huge, otherworldly monsters that are conjured out the liminal spaces that exist just on the edge of the Sussex countryside. Finn Caldwell’s puppetry direction, together with Steven Hoggett’s movement direction, deserve special notice for all the complicated work that makes this such a visual feast.

The actors are more than up to the task of working with such a complex palette of sound, light and visuals. The Boy (played on this evening by Keir Ogilvy) and Lettie (Millie Hikasa) are a sympathetic duo caught up in an epic battle. Charlie Brooks, in the thankless task of playing the villain, deftly manages the shifts between the seemingly unthreatening Ursula, and her terrifying alter-ego. Dad, played by Trevor Fox, is particularly good as a man caught up in hiding his grief and trying to remain cheerful and positive for his children. The witchy trio of Lettie, her mother Winnie (Kemi-Bo Jacobs) and grandmother Old Mrs Hempstock (Finty Williams) bring magic and comic reassurance to the stage. The scenes in which they appear always seem brighter and more vivid, despite the lack of modern conveniences in their old farmhouse.

Fans of Neil Gaiman’s work will enjoy this show. It’s also well worth a visit for audiences who have never seen this kind of production before. The Ocean at the End of the Lane gives us performers who do the lion’s share of the work. In their hard working hands, they show us the collision of reality and magic. An ocean really does seem to come on stage for the children to play in. See it, and marvel at all the things a theatre of the imagination can do.



Reviewed on 25th January 2023

by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Brinkhoff Moegenburg



UK Tour continues until September – click for details




Other Shows Recently reviewed by Dominica


Waterloo | ★★★★ | Edinburgh Festival Fringe | August 2022
Doctor Faustus | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | September 2022
House of Flamenka | ★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | September 2022
Hofesh Shecter: Contemporary Dance 2 | ★★★★★ | Battersea Arts Centre | October 2022
Mary | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | October 2022
999 | ★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | November 2022
Peter Pan’s Labyrinth | ★★★★ | The Vaults | November 2022
Tanz | ★★★★ | Battersea Arts Centre | November 2022
The Return | ★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | November 2022
Little Red Riding Hood | ★★½ | Battersea Arts Centre | December 2022
Orlando | ★★★★ | Garrick Theatre | December 2022
The Art of Illusion | ★★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | January 2023


Click here to read all our latest reviews





Donmar Warehouse



Donmar Warehouse

Reviewed – 23rd October 2019



“cleverly creeps under our skin as a piece of theatre and leaves us with a lot to contemplate”


A woman breaks into her parents’ home to steal money for drugs; a prisoner sees every object as a possible way of killing herself; a sex worker waits in the cold for an extra ten pounds…

For forty years, Clean Break has been changing the future of women during and after their time in prison by both providing an outlet to challenge their misrepresentation in popular entertainment and as a formative process for learning, expression and evolution. Alice Birch’s commission to celebrate this gives carte blanche from a selection of 100 scenes – any number, any order – which address the manifold causes, processes and effects of being caught up in the criminal justice system. By the very nature of the crimes women commit, locking them away is less a safety measure for the rest of society than distancing them from their own threats with devastating repercussions for them, those they depend on and who depend on them. Director, Maria Aberg, has carefully chosen and arranged her selection to touch on lives blighted by a structure which does not confront these complex pastoral issues.

With a brilliant choice of cast, the scope for illustrating the breadth of age, race and class of these women works well visually as well as within the script. Rosie Elnile’s versatile set of raised, individual box rooms around a central space forms different levels of impact for the audience, from the feeling of observed, intimate conversations of abusive relationships and foster care to being drawn into the group spirit of prison life. Some scenes work better than others, however, which produces a somewhat uneven flow. After fragments of emotional experiences at home and in prison, of mothers, daughters, prisoners and staff, the action’s centrepiece (and scene number 100) is a dinner party of old friends. Here Birch brings together all the elements of the good-doing, professional society, patting each other on the back and having another glass of wine. The overlapping conversation between the guests is superb, hypocrisy slowly smouldering as their personalities unfold (the detective, the documentary maker, the therapist, the charity volunteers…) until the one outsider, played by Shona Babayemi, in a passionate outburst, can stand the insincerity no longer.

There are strong performances all round, though our natural expectations for an imposed narrative makes it difficult to completely engage with the characters. Thusitha Jayasundera shows us the painful impotence of a mother who is told her daughter has committed suicide in prison and we feel the confused heartbreak of Joanna Horton as the mother who sees no option for her children but to kill them. In a truly sobering moment, Lucy Edkins and Kate O’Flynn’s quietly powerful final scene as mother and daughter sums up the tragic personal loss of the ignored. Despite the dark and distressing subject, the writing, acting and direction balances sadness with humour. ‘Blank’ cleverly creeps under our skin as a piece of theatre and leaves us with a lot to contemplate.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Helen Maybanks



Donmar Warehouse until 30th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Appropriate | ★★★★ | August 2019


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