The Ocean at The End of the Lane at New Wimbledon Theatre
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a play firmly based in the fantasy world which tells of a thrilling adventure of Boy who forms an friendship with his neighbours on Hempstock farm, in particular Lettie. Boy soon learns that all is not what it seems and that darkness is trying to worm its way in and together they set out to stop this and battle with ancient and mystical forces in doing so.
The story itself is based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and adapted by Joel Horwood and it had me gripped throughout. The tension builds at a wonderful pace with questions being raised and gradually answered as the story unfolded. The piece also came together beautifully with it circling round to the very opening and the penny dropping for the audience at the perfect moment. The wonderful thing about The Ocean At The End of The Lane is that it is told from a Child’s perspective and so it is not only the other worldly creatures that are terrifying and the imagination knows no bounds and whilst these creatures take centre stage at the heart of this play is a grieving family trying to move on.
The staging is wonderfully imaginative and inventive and compliments the book perfectly. The direction by Katy Rudd, combined with the set, puppetry, lighting, sound design and original music by Jherek Bischoff really made The Ocean at The End of The Lane a feast for all of the senses. Everything from each small set change through to the movement of otherworldly creatures has clearly been carefully considered and choreographed with precision to add to the story. The show really uses everything in a theatres wheelhouse to tell the story and this helps keep the audience on their toes, at times the lighting design by Paule Constable plunges the audience into darkness whilst we hear unrecognisable sounds from the stage and as an audience you understand Boy’s bewilderment first hand.
It was not only the story and the staging of it that was other worldly but the acting talent on stage. The entire cast were exceptional in this show and whilst I am going on to pick out a few of the performers it must be said that at times it really was an ensemble piece, from the puppetry to the stylised scenes changes it was a hard working and mesmerising collective.
Playing the boy was Daniel Cornish and playing Lettie Hempstock was Millie Hikasa. Both of them had a wonderful child like quality about them and easily convinced me I was watching a young boy and his friend play. Playing Ursula was Charlie Brooks and she shone in this role. She was utterly captivating, one moment sweetness and light and the next showing her true colours. Old Mrs Hempstock was played by Finty Williams and she created a wonderful air of mystery around her character, with the audience wondering exactly how powerful she was, yet at the same time convincing everyone she was simply a loveable old lady.
Fantasy stories such as this see to be having a moment in the spotlight thanks to the programmes such as Stranger Things hitting the mainstream and The Ocean At The End of The Lane shows that this genre can be just as effective (if not more so) in a theatre. The Ocean At The End of the Lane is a masterpiece in story telling and how magical theatre can be.
The Ocean At The End of the Lane is on until 15th April 2023 at New Wimbledon Theatre before continuing its National Tour. You can find out more on their website.