Shaken, traumatised, riveted, transfixed, disturbed, and completely hooked – The Ocean at the End of the Lane (at Oxford’s New Theatre all week) is story-telling at its absolute best. Stranger Things fans will love every second!
Touring with The National Theatre after a triumphant London opening in 2021, it’s a coup for Oxford to have banked this West End show; the haunting set, lights, choreography, music, puppetry and stage craft second to none.
it’s a terrorising ride, as the evil forces of the ‘fleas’ try to pass between worlds
Based on Neil Gaiman‘s gripping fantasy novel, the 12+ age guideline is warranted, because it’s a terrorising ride, as the evil forces of the ‘fleas’ try to pass between worlds.
The protagonist is a 12 year-old boy (Keir Ogilvy) trying to navigate the loss of his mother, school, the grief of his father, the suicide of their lodger and everyday life. He befriends a girl Lettie (Millie Hikasa) who lives on a nearby farm, and life improves.
an uncomfortable ride into Gaiman’s darkness, and one you will never forget
But of course darker forces are at work, and nothing is at it seems. There’s something afoot and the boy becomes entangled in Lettie and her family’s fight against the fleas who manage to infiltrate our world with dire consequences.
What brings this tale to life however is the really excellent staging and acting, which ensure an unforgettable production, the suspense ensuring we literally jumped out of our seats at times.
That the boy and Lettie are children is irrefutable, their parts acted so well, and the fleas infiltration leaves no one feeling safe, the audience becoming almost as claustrophobic and trapped as they are.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not an easy ride despite the fantastical fiction element because its character’s flaws and strengths are so real and relatable, so human, so sad.
“That a child’s voice can be so discounted features large”
From the violent dad (Trevor Fox), responsible for perhaps the most disturbing scene of all, to the appearance of disguised flea Ursula (Jasmeen James) evokes a real sense of helplessness. That a child’s voice can be so discounted features large.
And yet there are gentle, funny and light moments – the children swimming in the duck pond (their ocean) Lotties’ family farm a hub of female generational love, the games and laughter, their hope and valiance, their bravery and sacrifice.
So yes, go and see it, this really is a one-off, but be prepared, it’s an uncomfortable ride into Gaiman’s darkness, and one you will never forget.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is at New Theatre Oxford and runs until Sat 24 June. Book BOOK HERE