Theatre Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane


Ocean is... breathtaking. As is foreshadowed in the first few minutes, it is like a stage version of The Dark Crystal. An explosion of supernatural weirdness, eerie music, and baffling puppetry. It's also full of subtle magic. I mean that literally. Props appear in the blink of an eye, characters change without you noticing, the whole set comes alive.

It is reminiscent of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child". Except it's actually good! Whereas Cursed Child threw all its tricks onto the stage to distract you from the huge running time (and cost!), Ocean uses stagecraft and magic to charm and mesmerise you.

I found the first part of the first half to be a little... stilted. It felt very "stage-school drama". Histrionic teenagers, emotionally distant dads, significant pauses. It is all, thankfully, in service of a larger story. As it progresses, it gets stranger and stranger. The theatre comes alive. It is balletic without being a ballet. You could imagine it on a stage twice the size, with cast of hundreds, and pyrotechnics - but it is charmingly effective nestled in the Duke of Yorks theatre. It feels like every nook and cranny of the set and auditorium is put to good use.

The cast are stunning. Grace Hogg-Robinson is the epitome of annoying sibling - like a commedia dell'arte stock character come to life. Laura Rogers is malevolence personified. As for Nia Towle - I can't believe this is her debut! She absolutely dominates the stage. The whole cast are superb - both in their acting and the way they interact with the set. The puppetry is genuinely astonishing.

This was a lovely birthday treat from my mum and dad. Thanks folks!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is playing in London's West End until 14th May 2022. Covid passes are checked on entry and masks must be worn.

Verdict

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