The Ocean At The End Of The Lane - Theatre Royal Plymouth - Review
Okay, hands up in the air, time for some honesty. I did not know anything about ‘The Ocean At The End Of The Lane’ before I was kindly invited to the press night of the stage adaptation at Theatre Royal Plymouth. Beyond the knowledge of it being based on a novel by Neil Gaiman (Good Omens, Stardust, Coraline), I knew nothing of the plot, and made the decision not to look it up before going to see the show. Because, after all, sometimes going into something blind can be worth the risk.
Stretching across two time periods, ‘The Ocean At The End Of The Lane’ tells the story of an unnamed character, known simply as Boy, who upon returning to his childhood area for a funeral is reminded of the past. The memories transport him back to being 12 years old, when he met a girl called Lettie and together, they went on a magical adventure, attempting to stop a monster from invading their lives, with thrilling and frightening results.
This is a story crammed full of intrigue, magic, suspense, and fantasy, playing on the imagination and the games that children play and turning it something all the more sinister. It expertly blends the magical elements with more relatable topics such as family trauma, death, sibling rivalry and grief.
At this performance the role of Boy was played by Keir Ogilvy, so believable in his portrayal that you can simply forget that it is an adult playing a 12-year-old. This is an extremely physical and emotional role, which Ogilvy takes in his stride, with boy being faced with a strange magical world that brings danger directly into his home. The bond between Ogilvy’s Boy and Millie Hikasa’s Lettie is charming and heart-warming, with the inspiration of both being lost souls, clinging to their friendship and the feeling of safety that comes with it. Hikasa’s Lettie is sweet and full of energy, at first excited by the prospect of strange beings and an opening between worlds yet driven and determined in helping Boy to battle against the darkness.
Trevor Fox, playing both Boy as an adult and boy’s father gives a commanding performance, both the grieving father and a vessel for the darkness that is brought into their home. He is a character that you are both able to feel for and able to hate. As Ursula, a lodger brought into boy’s home, Charlie Brooks shines, able to effortlessly switch personalities and send shivers down the spines of the audience, especially in a scene involving multiple revolving doors that I am still trying to work out.
Boys home with his dad, the lodger and his sister (Laurie Ogden) is polar opposite to the Hempstock home, both in décor and residents. Boy’s home is plain, more modern (for it’s 1980’s setting) and organised, where the Hempstock farmhouse is cluttered, lit by oil lamp and candles and all the more magical, the perfect setting for Lettie, her mother Ginnie and her grandmother Old Mrs Hempstock. Kemi-Bo Jacobs and Finty Williams embodying the quirky, other worldly and magical feel that we get from the Hempstocks, the idea that they are different and full of knowledge of the creatures that walk the line between reality and imagination.
Fly Davis set design, combined with Paule Constable’s lighting and Ian Dickenson’s sound design creates a powerful effect. Dark twisted branches line the stage, setting the scene of the countryside lane and the ensemble cast bring the environment to life, dressed all in black and emerging from the darkness as dream like figures, fantasy creatures and carriers of light. Puppetry is used throughout to brilliant effect and the use of sound and lighting draws the audience in.
Overall, ‘The Ocean At The End Of The Lane’ is a mythical and magical story that captures the imagination and leaves the audience guessing. Just when you think that you have worked out where the story is going, you are thrown headfirst in a different direction, and you feel as if you are experiencing it all with the characters. With special effects that will leave you scratching your head as to how it is all done and a story that both entertains and intrigues, you are guaranteed to be impressed.