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The Ocean At The End Of The Lane - Nottingham Review

Writer: Mark Johnson 

The National Theatre hit stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End Of The Lane arrives in Nottingham for the first time as part of a nationwide tour.

Gaiman's complex story combines moments of epic fantasy with human emotions and feelings, it's a real edge-of-your-seat thriller whilst also touching at the heartstrings. It's no easy challenge to pull off a stage adaption but adapter Joel Horwood and director Katy Rudd pull it off with skill whilst honouring the source material.

Domonic Ramsden, Keir Oglivy (Boy), Aimee McGoldrick and Millie Hikasa (Lettie). Photo by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

The mysterious intrigue of the piece begins when your first met with the set designed by Fly Davis. The branches create an earthy feel whilst throughout the production the entrances and exits are used to maximum effect with illusions by Jamie Harrison providing some real jaw-dropping action. 

The set becomes a playground for the fantastical adventure which unfolds. The story starts as we meet a nameless man who reminisces by the cottage of his first childhood friend, Lettie, and the pond they once played by. A chance encounter with Lettie's Grandmother sets off a vivid trip down into the past.

Stepping into the past the man is now boy on his 12th birthday, which is marked by the suicide of the family lodger and it's here the boy first meets Lettie at Hempstock Farm. It's clear there is more to the Hempstock's than meets the eye. Once the playing turns to the attention of Skarthach everything changes as a terrifying creature is unleashed.

Boy is played superbly by Keir Ogilvy who carries the weight of the role with believability. He is pulled about by the unfolding events, managing to convey the fear whilst an undercurrent of strength prevails. Trevor Fox outstandingly carries the emotions of Dad portraying dark moments whilst also being deeply moving as a widowed father. Laurie Ogden's bratty Sis also leaves an impression, deep down all she is looking for is some love.

Enter Charlie Brooks as a new lodger Ursula, she comes into the household with a devilish monstrosity that throws the lives of all into danger. Brooks deliciously strides around the stage with an unsettling energy. To give too much away would ruin the piece.

Laurie Ogden (Sis), Charlie Brooks (Ursula) and Trevor Fox (Dad). Photo by Pamela Raith

The trio of Finty Williams as Old Mrs Hempstock, Kemi-Bo Jacobs as Ginnie Hempstock and Millie Hikasa as Lettie Hempstock stand together to drive Ursula out. They have a lovely bond on the stage and this makes the characters so warm and adds to the emotion of the piece. Hikasa as Lettie is arguably the star of the piece, she gives a heart to the role, creating a key central relationship with Boy that is so heart rendering believable.

The staging and the illusions are embossed by Paule Constable's magical lighting that transports the piece from darkness to light. Composer Jherek Bischoff's striking soundtrack and sound by Ian Dickinson keep you on the edge and often throw you down unexpected paths. There are a few jump scares provided by the audio-visual experience of the piece. Magnificent puppetry by Samuel Wyer and movement by Steven Hoggett is performed tremendously by the company who silently glide around the stage, it's striking to watch the creatures come to life. The beautiful Ocean scene in the second act is a standout moment of calm in the thrilling adventure.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane has rightly been lauded by critics, it is like nothing you have experienced before. It's mysterious and magical whilst also being a deeply human story about love and loss that we can all relate to. A thrilling rollercoaster ride for the senses. Stupendously good.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Ocean At The End Of The Lane plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 17th June with tickets available from The show continues on tour until October when it transfers back to the West End at London's Noel Coward Theatre. Visit for full details.

Keir Ogilvy (Boy), Millie Hikasa (Lettie), Kemi-Bo Jacobs (Ginnie) and the cast of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Photo by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

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