29 August 2023
King's Theatre, Glasgow
A magical piece of theatre.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman was the winner of the Book of the Year at the 2013 National Book Awards and has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide. As a fan of Gaiman's work (Stardust, Coraline, Good Omens, The Sandman) I have somehow managed to let 'Ocean' pass me by. The stage adaptation had a very successful six-month run in London's West end, but as the UK tour arrives in Glasgow, I remain oblivious to the plot. I expect nothing more than to be transported into Neil Gaiman's incredible imagination.
On entering the auditorium, the curtains are open and the set is dark and deep. Glimpses of a mysterious forest peek out from the wings, and the audience peer at the stage, already intrigued and inquisitive while taking their seats. Throughout the show this set comes to life in a variety of fantastic, magical, visual ways. Never have I seen depth, dark and light used so successfully on stage. The set design by Fly Davis, along with lighting by Paule Constable, come together to create a spellbinding backdrop, but also provides the perfect conditions for the ensemble cast and puppets to seemingly appear out of the depths of nowhere. It's expertly done.
The puppets are not of the Kermit the Frog nor Big Bird variety; rather they are delicate, intricate, eerie monsters. Supernatural beings that manage to be both ominous, but also hypnotic and beautiful. The puppets and the cast themselves move with fluidity, purpose, and a sort of otherworldly elegance. The choreography from beginning to end is simply stunning and really adds to the mystical atmosphere.
The fantasy elements, the illusions and striking visuals make for a magical piece of theatre, but there is a story of friendship and of growing up at the heart of the show.
"Returning to his childhood home, a man finds himself standing beside the pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. He's transported to his 12th birthday when his remarkable friend Lettie claimed it wasn't a pond, but an ocean – a place where everything is possible... Plunged into a magical world, their survival depends on their ability to reckon with ancient forces that threaten to destroy everything around them."
The book is described by Gaiman as 'not autobiographical' but at the same time there was a farmhouse, down a lane, that went past his house... and the stories that surround it and its occupants have been swirling in his head since he was 12 years old. He admits that 'Ocean' is his most personal story, and it does feel intimate and heartfelt.
Keir Ogilvy (Boy) and Millie Hikasa (Lettie Hempstock) are tremendous in the lead roles, guiding us from a seemingly ordinary farmhouse and duckpond, into the mystical world of The Edges. Playing fairly young children, they both bring a light enthusiasm to the characters. Authentic and likeable, watching their story unfold the audience must decide for themselves what is truth and what is fantasy. And that is the question we are left with: Can our childhood memories really be trusted?
All the cast are strong, but the success of this piece comes from the way they are directed, choreographed and rehearsed to perfection, working together to seamlessly move the set and props around, from doors, to tables and even themselves - the timing and coordination, the trust between every actor on stage is obvious and makes for a bewitching production.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a magical piece of theatre, performed flawlessly. If you want to see what can be achieved in theatrical production and design, this is it.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is suitable for ages 12+.
Listings and Tickets
The Ocean at the End of the Lane plays the King's Theatre, Glasgow from Tues 29th August to Sat 2nd September 2023, 7.30pm, Wed & Sat matinees 2.30pm
🎟️ Tickets: https://prf.hn/l/QxYZewN
About the National Theatre
The National Theatre’s mission is to make world-class theatre, for everyone. The NT creates and shares unforgettable stories with audiences across the UK and around the world. On its own stages, on tour, in schools, on cinema screens and streaming at home, it strives to be accessible, inclusive and sustainable. The National Theatre empowers artists and craftspeople to make world-leading work, investing in talent and developing new productions with a wide range of theatre companies at its New Work Department. Our nation thrives on fresh talent and new ideas, so the National Theatre works with young people and teachers right across the UK through performance, writing and technical programmes to ignite the creativity of the next generation. Together with communities, the NT creates ambitious works of participatory theatre in deep partnerships that unite theatres and local organisations – showing that nothing brings us together like theatre. The National Theatre needs your support to shape a bright, creative future.
🌟REVIEW: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (UK Tour, Glasgow) [National Theatre, Neil Gaiman]🌟
🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show, but as I already had tickets (purchased some time ago), I did not accept the gifted tickets. But I do work with ATG Glasgow to promote and support their shows. Whether I am invited or not has absolutely no impact on my reviews or star ratings.
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📸 Production photo credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg
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