An unnamed Boy, played by Samuel Blenkin, is a voracious bookworm without many friends. When the lodger living in his house steals his dad’s car and kills himself, strange coins begin appearing. The Boy befriends Lettie Hempstock (Marli Siu), a young girl from Hempstock farm, and glimpses the immense, unexplainable world outside his own. Gaiman’s narrator is the Boy as an adult who, while returning for his father’s funeral, encounters Lettie’s grandmother Old Mrs Hempstock (Josie Walker) and recollects his past.
Tangled branches frame the stage and moss-covered benches lift mysteriously from the stage, evoking this twisted, uncanny, and sometimes sinister world. Fly Davis’s set design is superb, particularly with the homey, warm, and antique-filled dwelling of the Hempstock farm. But it’s the ensemble-driven movement, with stunning costuming and puppetry, that create the most supernatural moments. Samuel Wyer and Finn Caldwell’s puppetry design and direction are to be praised, especially in creating the contorted and terrifying flea living at the edges of the world.
This flea writhes itself into the Boy’s home and becomes Ursula, a wicked woman who can read the Boy’s mind. Pippa Nixon’s Ursula almost steals the show, chillingly cheerful and undeniably evil. And the moments of magic, directed by Jamie Harrison, as she locks Blenkin in his room, are truly hair-rising.
Occasionally the movement sequences feel overstretched, and the climax loses visual clarity as Blenkin and Siu find the value in their friendship. And yet even so, it’s hard not to be immersed by The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
|What||The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre review|
|Where||National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
03 Dec 19 – 25 Jan 20, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£15 - £65|
|Website||Click here for more info and to book|