The Ocean at the end of the Lane.
A Tuesday night in Milton Keynes or is it? The ocean at the end of the lane. Book by Neil Gaiman takes us on a fantasy journey as we look at everyday life in our imaginations.
As we enter the theatre, the stage is spectacular, like a large deep, dark and even scary forest awaits us. The lighting is moody and menacing. The music is the same.
So what is the play about. As the play starts a man and a small group of friends and family are attending his father’s funeral, Then a switch and we see the man standing outside a farmhouse. He is initially alone, but then walks in a mysterious Old lady, Mrs Hempstock played brilliantly by Dame Judy Dench’s daughter Finty Williams, Slowly the his past begins to unfold and we are introduced to him as a boy the boy.
The Boy lives with his father, having lost his Mother. His father is grieving the loss of his wife, and you can see his Father is fighting his own demons of a traumatic childhood. The boy has a sister who constantly winds him up in an annoying way. She constantly reminds him how different he is to other children.
Money is tight and they have a lodger, he is not seen, but tragedy strikes when their lodger steals the family car and ends his life. This incident releases a strange and powerful spirit, mood changes with the music. This is catalyst for a series of events that will be life changing.
On the Farm there is a Mum and a daughter Lettie. The boy and her become good friends, but the family are a little weird and the boy struggles with what is being said. As the play moves along the boy can be seen fighting to keep his normality and has to push deep inside himself and finds courage to look at what his life is about that he didn’t even know he had. This is reflected in the changing relationship with his father, and how life’s experiences can shape you and the person you become.
What a production this is. Follows the book so closely. A wonderful piece of contemporary art and choreography, with staging, that sometimes looks impossible to achieve in the theatre. The music and lighting adds to the ambience of this dark play. Cleverly directed by Katy Rudd’s contrasts the real and the fantastical so well.
The set by Fly Davis puts you straight into the Boy’s world and is balanced with the music composed by Jherek Bischoff, not forgetting the lighting and sound design by Paulie Constable and Ian Dickinson. In combination, you really are in for a treat.
At one point in the show there was a use of a couple of puppetts representing the Boy and Letties. These were designed by Samuel Wyer and directed by Finn Caldwell is such an integrated part, made them appear almost lifelike. They showed the demons and terrors that lurked in the boy’s world. These were so effective, with ensemble enhancing the experience.
The use of magic and illusion (designed and directed by Jamie Harrison), were excellent especially when Ursula, played with the perfect amount of mystical attitude. Charlie Brooks, appears, the newest family lodger. Her performance in places is captivating. What a great part to have, from intense scary moments to flying above the stage.
The choreography by Steven Hoggett, is sublime. The movement of props and set pieces carefully planned and executed crucial to the story, creating level onto of discovery.
For me there were some standout performances. Keir Ogilvy as Boy, so good and natural. Millie Hikasa as Lettie Hempstock. So good.
Their interpretation and performance as children was second to none! They invited you into the story and before you knew it you were experiencing what their characters were. Very clever. Trevor Fox (Grown up boy and father) looked a tough part to play, but he was a natural, portraying a very complex character who was fighting against becoming his own father as well as the loss of his wife. Kemi - Bo Jacobs also gave a lovely performance as Ginnie Hempstock.
This is a must see play. So cleverly written, staging and acted so well. An unbelievable fantasy world and to pull this off onstage they certainly do. Excellent play.
5 Stars out of 5
Reviewer Mark Bilsby