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The Ocean At The End Of The Lane - Milton Keynes Theatre

Where does imagination end and reality begin?  The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is in Milton Keynes Theatre this week.  The National Theatre’s critically acclaimed adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s work is a thrilling adventure of fantasy, myth and friendship, which blends magic with memory in a tour-de-force of storytelling that takes audiences on an epic journey to a childhood once forgotten and the darkness that lurks at the very edge of it.


This story has layers and hidden depths of meaning so this review is my interpretation of the story.  The story is of a boy who lost his mother a year ago.  His dad tries to get on with life, but money is tight, and he doesn’t talk about this huge loss so boy feels alone.  Boy doesn’t have friends at school as he is thought of as weird.  He meets Lettie and they become firm friends almost immediately.  She has a pond at the bottom of her farm, but to Lettie it isn’t a pond; it’s an ocean.  A place where time folds in on itself and anything is possible.  Together they go on an adventure into this magical world and fight dark forces.  Is Lettie real or his imaginary friend?  Or perhaps Lettie and her family are witches?  Is their adventure into the ocean real or just Boy’s imagination?  Does their adventure help him fight the stages of grief for his mum?  Does he see Ursula as a threat because she is taking the love of his dad and sister, so he feels even more alone and feels he will lose the family he has left?  This story has the depth of an ocean.


The show is suitable for ages 12+.  To be honest, there were parts when I felt a little frightened myself.  The phenomenal cast move sets in keeping with the story.  The movements (directed by Steven Hoggett) of the ensemble paired with lighting (design Paule Constable) are ambitious and all encompassing.  Add to this the sound design by Ian Dickinson and you have a force of darkness that is threatening and scary on stage.  There is magic on that stage.  True theatrical magic.


The cast are truly impeccable in their performances and instead of focusing on single performances, tell the story as a whole that kept me guessing about what may happen next.

This show is true to the book so if you are a fan of the book, you will love it.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane was the winner of the Book of the Year at the 2013 National Book Awards and has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide.


Director Katy Rudd said: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane is treasured across the world by Neil Gaiman’s legions of fans.  The writer, Joel Horwood and I wanted to be faithful to the novel and at the same time create a big, bold, visual show with more than just a little bit of magic.  Thanks to our amazing creative team we found ways to fit an ocean into a bucket and bring huge mythical creatures to life on stage.  We hope we have created something that is both profound and visually exciting.”


Writer Neil Gaiman said: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about memory, magic, family.  It’s about who you were and who you are.  It’s not like anything else you’ll ever see at the theatre”.


It really is unlike anything else I have seen on stage, and I highly recommend it.  The reaction from the audience was ‘Wow!’. If you want to be wowed, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is in Milton Keynes Theatre until 1st July 2023 and then continues it UK tour.


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