The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Thursday 26 January 2023

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Tour)
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 25th January 2023 by Olivia Mitchell 

One of the most moving and stunning pieces of theatre, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is currently making its way around the UK on a tour that is truly a must see. Based on Neil Gaiman's book with the same name, the play is a complex story which deals with the concept of memories and how we carry them with us, as well as forgetting them. A visual and emotional masterpiece, it's an intriguing tale which has many magical realism elements that are transferred to stage so well by Joel Harwood's adaptation and Katy Rudd's expert direction.

The show was originally staged at the National Theatre and many of their trademark features and overall aesthetic are completely woven through. From the start you are immersed in a world which is dark but enticing. Fly Davis' stunning set really embodies those childhood memories of imagining what spookiness lies just out of sight. A minimalistic moss covered design provides the backdrop for some moments of pure magic, where chiffon becomes an ocean and clever stagecraft movement (Steven Hoggett) is transformed into out of this world beings. There's also great contrast between the father's home which never truly feels complete since his wife passed and the nightmare world which is dark and loud.

The fantastical elements of the show feel strangely natural while still being awe-inspiring. Jamie Harrison's illusions are so well pulled off and are authentically magical and the balance of magic and genuine heartfelt moments is perfect.

Perpetually moving, the play perfectly captures grief and the painful fear that your lost loved one is being replaced and erased. These emotions are intensely portrayed not only through the action on stage, but via Jherek Bischoff's imposing and enchanting music which is utterly cinematic and combined with Ian Dickinson's sound design- so powerful. Alongside Paule Constable's lighting design, the whole thing is a masterclass is storytelling and theatricality.

As well as all of this, the cast of outstanding performers imbue every moment with sincerity and vulnerability. Keir Ogilvy really taps into the innocence of childhood whilst bringing to life the Boy who is struggling with the pain of losing his mother. As his Sis Laurie Ogden is fantastic at portraying her need to be loved and noticed through her's, and her families pain. Charlie Brooks fulfils that need as the chilling, omnipresent Ursula who is really what nightmares are made of. Trevor Fox as Dad has some really emotionally challenging scenes which are brought to life incredibly well. Finty Williams, Millie Hikasa and Kemi-Bo Jacobs have excellent chemistry as the Hempstock trio, and individually give wonderfully strong performances as well as coming together to provide some humourous moments. The rest of the ensemble work as one entity to bring the whole world to life with complete fluidity and power.

A spectacle of a show in the most quiet and beautiful way, The Ocean at the End of the Lane embodies everything that makes theatre so magical and is moving in all the best ways.

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}