Tuesday, June 25

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Regent Theatre, Stoke on Trent

The award-winning fantasy novel, ‘The Ocean at the end of the Lane’ written by Neil Gaiman has now been adapted by Joel Horwood for stage and is performed at The Regent Theatre in Stoke on Trent this week. With its sold-out debut at the National Theatre and having received several Olivier Award nominations, it was intriguing to see the translation from book to stage.

Directed by Katie Rudd the story centres around a man who is transported back to the time of his 12th birthday. Gaiman himself wrote it as a short story for his wife to share aspects of his childhood with her and stated that he was keen for it to contain ‘emotion’ as this is what she loved. It certainly delivers on what Gaiman intended, as from the opening scene it was clear that the story was taking us in a magical and mythical direction. It is clearly a tale of fantasy and friendship but also contrasts with themes of fear, abuse and deceit. It is a tale of looking back to our childhood and how things in the present day are not always how we remembered them when we were younger.

Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Millie Hikasa played the part of Lettie Hempstock to an incredible standard. Consistent, kind and earnest, she captivated the audience with her magical presence and an abundance of energy on stage. Her relationship with ‘the boy’ played by Keir Ogilvy was very moving to watch. Ogilvy’s character transformed throughout the play from being cynical about the claims Lettie was making, to trusting her with his life eventually. With consistent stage presence throughout and dynamic movement on stage it was hard to take your eyes off him. The pain he displayed from his Fathers treatment of him in the bathroom at his home was palpable.

A standout performance by Charlie Brooks as ‘Ursula’ must also be acknowledged. With a persistent haunting persona, she put fear into the majority of the audience as she moved in as the new Lodger. Evil to ‘the boy’ and ‘loving and kind’ to his Sister and Father, this is a role that Brooks is extremely competent at and furthermore excels at.

It would be remiss not to mention the incredible set design and acknowledgement must go to Fly Davies for a phenomenal set. The set and props were changed effortlessly throughout the play. The lighting (Paule Constable) also added to the richness of the set and complemented each scene perfectly.

Horwood should be applauded for this adaption as it will certainly take you on a journey back to childhood. As a member of the audience, I have not seen a story told so well on stage and it was clear from the standing ovation that the audience would echo this view also. It is certainly a brave watch with themes of grief and loss but also balanced beautifully with themes of friendship and relationships.

This adaption is moving, haunting and utterly captivating. Aimed at audiences of 12 years (and containing references to suicide) it will certainly be a story that will be pondered over and considered on the way home. An adaptation worthy of a second viewing for sure.

The Ocean at the end of the Lane is on at the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on- Trent until 16th September and tickets are available from www.atgtickets.com

Reviewer: Angela Kelly

Reviewed: 12th September 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.