Plunge into a magical and menacing world at the Lowry's staging of Neil Gaiman's 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane'
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So here goes – mesmerising, magical, shocking and spell-binding.
The acclaimed National Theatre production of Neil Gaiman’s hit novel is everything you’d expect and more.
Gaiman’s most personal story sees 12-year-old Alternate Boy straddle two universes – our real world and that of another, fantastical and magical, but no less perilous.
Played wonderfully by Keir Ogilvy, the young boy strikes up a friendship with the fearless Lettie Hempstock – a heroine in the mould of Pullman’s Lyra Belacqua – that will plunge him deep into the ocean beyond. This magical realism of the two worlds juxtaposes seamlessly on stage with the very highest of production values.
Millie Hikasa is superb in the breathless role of the warm, humourous and feisty Lettie.
The production is an attack on the senses, a visual and audible sledgehammer, that leaves the audience dizzy and on edge. That latter feeling is in no small part down to EastEnders’ Charlie Brooks who plays the twin roles of the villainous Ursula and Skarthach.
From a femme fatale to a classic witch of lore, Brooks relishes this deliciously malevolent part. Indeed, I would say this show is not suitable for younger children or teenagers of a nervous disposition.
The theme of magic, which Gaiman is so fond of, is brought to the stage with a sleight of hand that will have you feeling you’re watching a magic show as well as a dramatic production. There is no danger here of an audience being drawn into a slumber, this is edge-of-the-seat, high-stakes tension pretty much from start to finish.
The fantasy menace of that other world is no less jarring either than those threats some of us, sadly, encounter in the real world – loss, betrayal and abuse. Emotions clearly deeply personal and influential to Gaiman when writing his novel, as he himself has acknowledged.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is running at the Lowry’s Lyric Theatre until Sunday, January 8th.