Stranger Things are Happening at the Ocean at the End of the LanE!
A stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 2013 book brought to life by the National Theatre. This thrilling adventure of fantasy, myth and friendship blends magic with memory in a tour-de-force of storytelling that takes audiences on an epic journey to a forgotten childhood and the darkness that lurks at the very edge of it. It was a massive hit on the Westend until January last year when it set out on its first UK Tour.
This play is hard to give a detailed review of without spoiling the stomach-gripping and thrillingly scary moments throughout. Still, I will tell you what I can in the hope to garner your attention to go see this phenomenal stage production.
The synopsis of the play from its promotional material states: “Returning to his childhood home, a man finds himself standing beside the pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. He’s transported to his 12th birthday when his remarkable friend Lettie claimed it wasn’t a pond, but an ocean – a place where everything is possible… Plunged into a magical world, their survival depends on their ability to reckon with ancient forces that threaten to destroy everything around them.”
There were two questions this synopsis brought to me before I went to watch the play, the answers of which I can give you without spoiling this stunningly thrilling production are:
Why has the man returned to his childhood home? To go to his father's funeral which starts him thinking about his childhood.
What is possibe at the pond / Ocean? Witches, wise women, evil spirits, and suicide.
The story follows an unnamed man, who returns home and finds himself revisiting past memories of his childhood with his friend Lettie (Millie Hikasa) as they are plunged into a magical realm and must reckon with dark, ancient forces that threaten to destroy their world.
The revisiting starts a year after the boy's mother has died, his father (Trevor Fox) is having to find ways to make ends meet, and their lodger has just killed himself in the family car at the edge of a pond, which becomes a magical portal ocean between realities in the imaginations of the boy (Keir Ogilvy) and Lettie, where they first meet. The boy and Lettie find a dead fish in the pond, oddly they find a 50p inside of it, even odder is later that night the boy coughs up a 50p of his own. What can this be? Is something is trying to cross over from another realm? This is the point when the magic of this theatrical piece really takes off set-wise, with things kept relatively simple the clever use of props, lighting and puppetry assist to immerse you into this play and its inter-dimensional worlds.
The cast chemistry makes the entire thing believable and the pairing of Ogilvy as the boy and Hikasa as Lettie is a perfect match for the magical storytelling of this book turned play. Jasmeen James understudied in Charlie Brooks absence and played the wicked Ursula with a sense of malevolence and chilling glee that we have come to associate with Brooks best-known character Eastenders Janine Butcher.
The Ocean and the end of the Lane plays at the Grand Opera House Belfast until Saturday, get tickets via goh.co.uk