The Ocean at the End of The Lane, National Theatre’s major newstage adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2013 book of the same name, launched at The Alex, Birmingham last night.
Straight away it’s apparent that this is not going to be a stripped-back production. The stage is framed by towering hedges and bracken weaving up to the ceiling. Dark figures emerge with umbrellas circling, stomping and swaying eerily.
..throbbing 80s electronic soundtrack pulses in and out, reminiscent of Vangelis or Stranger Things. This really adds to the tension and foreboding..
For those not instantly familiar with Neil Gaiman, he is known for mixing fantasy and ‘real world’ fiction, appealing to all ages. You might have seen his work on tv and in films such as ‘Coraline’, ‘Good Omens’ and Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’.
‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ sees a man returning to his childhood home for a funeral and finding more than he bargained for when he takes a little trip down memory lane. Most of the story takes place in the past, in the early 80s, when he was celebrating his 12th birthday. Things take quite a dark turn very quickly and he is briefly left in the care of three women at a local farm. He befriends ‘Lettie’, a young girl with extraordinary powers who leads them on an adventure that doesn’t quite go according to plan.
As the story progresses, the throbbing 80s electronic soundtrack pulses in and out, reminiscent of Vangelis or Stranger Things. This really adds to the tension and foreboding that hovers throughout the show. The stagehands, dressed in black who deftly move props and staging in and out of every scene are not just stagehands, but dancers who are an integral part of the performance.
..the whole room is enthralled from start to finish. The staging and props are slick and effective, the use of moving doors, lighting, puppetry and dance all weave together to bring what is possibly the best theatre production I have ever seen.
The players are all fantastic, it seems unfair to single anyone out as they all shone, and the whole room is enthralled from start to finish. The staging and props are slick and effective, the use of moving doors, lighting, puppetry and dance all weave together to bring what is possibly the best theatre production I have ever seen.
The audience tonight at The Alex is probably the most mixed age-wise that I’ve seen, with big groups of teenagers, groups of friends and couples ranging from their 20s to 60s. From the rapturous applause and standing ovation at the end, it’s safe to say that this stage production has hit the mark with all corners of its audience.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a thrilling delight! A sinister and captivating show, for fans of beguiling fiction with a fantasy twist such as Neil Gaiman and Stranger Things.
Adapted by Joel Horwood and directed by Katy Rudd. Starring Daniel Cornish, Millie Hikasa, Eastenders’ Charlie Brooks and familiar face Trevor Fox.
Catch this wonder while you can at The Alex Birmingham until 27th May.
Words by Mazzy Snape Director breadbirmingham.co.uk