Last Updated on November 5, 2021
The Ocean has returned to the end of St Martin’s Lane!
The National Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of The Ocean at the End of the Lane opened last night at The Duke of York’s Theatre, St. Martin’s Lane in the West End. Due to popular demand, the first major stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s work got a final three-week extension and will now run until 14 May 2022.
Gaiman’s fantasy novel is brought to life on stage as an adaptation by Joel Horwood, directed by Katy Rudd. For two and a half hours (inclusive of interval), the power of imagination and storytelling transports audiences on a spellbinding and spectacular adventure.
The play begins with a man returning to his childhood home, and finds himself standing beside the duck pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. Suddenly, he’s transported back to his 12th birthday, spring half term when his dad was struggling to make ends meet and his friend Lettie claimed it wasn’t a pond, but an ocean.
With flawless set transitions and carefully choreographed sequences to sound effects and music, elements of reality and fantasy merge as the audience is taken on this magical adventure.
James Bamford gives an exquisite performance as boy, where raw emotions of fear and bravery are laid bare for the audience to see. Nia Towle also showcases a powerful performance as Lettie Hempstock, displaying the ever-loyal friend who ultimately sacrifices herself to save her best friend.
Laura Rogers shines as Ursula displaying the duality of her character as an evil flea villain when facing the boy and Lettie but being the perfect lodger when in the company of the boy’s dad and sister. Some of her scenes sent chills up my spine and, amplified by the sound, props, illusions and lighting, there were periods where I felt I would crush my companion’s hand as I was holding it so tightly.
Plunged into a magical world, the boy and Lettie’s survival depends on their ability to reckon with dark, ancient forces that threaten to destroy their world. The graphic nature of Gaiman’s novels are not easy to replicate on stage, but the set design by Fly Davis and costume and puppet design by Samuel Wyer does an amazing job of bringing it to life.
Every magical sequence is choreographed by Steven Hoggett to the slightest detail and it comes together beautifully to suspend the audience’s grasp on time and space, seamlessly transitioning to the next scene. The composition by Jherek Bischoff, sound design by Ian Dickinson and lighting design by Paule Constable work together and successfully amplifies the character’s feelings to resonate in the 640 seat theatre. Of course, this production wouldn’t be magical without the magic and illusions direction and design by Jamie Harrison and puppetry direction by Finn Caldwell, as these two elements reveal the dark ancient forces to be feared in front of your eyes.
When the boy meets Lottie Hempstock for the first time, a lodger in the boy’s home has just committed suicide due to gambling away his friends’ money. His death allows a supernatural being to gain access to the boy’s world, leaving money for people in unpleasant ways including leaving a coin for the boy to almost choke on.
They travel to find the “flea” and prevent it from crossing to the boy’s world, but a mishap results in something lodging into the boy’s hand. It turns out to be a wormhole that allows the “flea” to cross into the boy’s world in the form of a lodger named Ursula. Unfortunately for the boy, Ursula successfully ingratiates herself with his family so the boy is alienated from his family and is almost drowned in the bath by his father. One night, the boy escapes and makes it to Lottie’s home where the Hempstocks help to treat his hand but state they can’t remove the wormhole.
Determined to make things right, Lottie and the boy come up with a plan to get rid of Ursula. Will they succeed? You’ll have to experience the Ocean at the End of the Lane for yourself to find out.
Duke of York’s Theatre
St Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross
London WC2N 4BG
Now playing until 14 May 2022
National Theatre Box Office (No online booking fee)
Duke of York’s Box Office (a £3.65 transaction fee applies)
For group bookings call 020 7206 1174