The long-awaited West End transfer of the National Theatre’s 2019 production has arrived at the Duke of York’s Theatre, adapted by Joel Horwood and directed by Katy Rudd.
We caught the 2019 adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the National Theatre and absolutely adored it – so we were thrilled to see the West End transfer, following a substantial delay due to the pandemic, finally open its doors. Thankfully, in the interim, it has lost none of its magic – the special effects still impress (we really have no idea how some of the characters move around the stage so quickly), the puppetry is gorgeous, the shapeshifting monsters are actually scary. At times it feels like a genuinely immersive experience – it’s easy to get lost in the world created in this space.
The plot is fairly simple and easy to follow – our protagonist is 12-year-old Boy (James Bamford), who has recently lost his mother and doesn’t have any friends, until he meets the mysterious Lettie Hempstock (Nia Towle), who appears to be of a similar age. It transpires she’s part of a mysterious and magical trio of witches with her mother and grandmother, who between them patrol and protect The Edges from intrusion.
Together they embark on a mission to banish a monster referred to as a flea, who manages to infiltrate their world in the human form of Dad’s too-good-to-be-true new lodger Ursula (Laura Rogers). Cue some wonderful and fantastical clashes between good and evil, with some genuinely heart-in-mouth moments. The play packs a real emotional punch – we felt far more invested in these characters that we expected we would.
Its crowning achievement is to convincingly portray a child’s imagination on the stage. Nightmare and dream sequences are illustrated beautifully – doors mysteriously multiply, safe spaces are created with lighting, waves of water wash over the characters and the audience. It all adds up to create a magical and truly captivating theatrical experience.
When we last saw The Ocean at the End of the Lane, we signed off by saying “surely a West End transfer will follow – it deserves one”. We’re so happy it’s finally arrived – this is a genuinely magical show that audiences of all ages will adore. An absolute theatrical triumph – not to be missed.
GAY TIMES gives The Ocean at the End of the Lane – 5/5
More information can be found here.