It’s not difficult to tell you who THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is for – you may think this is a children’s story but I can tell you it is definitely for everyone, no matter what your age. The show however does have an age guidance of 12+.

Adapted from NEIL GAIMAN’S award winning book, the play, which is on this week at the Wales Millennium Centre, is filled with fantasy and enchantment. For me though it is a masterful piece of theatre with three equally superb elements – a great story, technically brilliant staging and sound which completely fills the auditorium, and will occasionally have you jumping from your seat.

The story is set between 1983 and the present day where an unnamed character returns to his childhood stomping ground for a funeral. Stirring up long forgotten memories we are taken back to the 11 year old boy whose life is plagued by a monstrous, rotten creature – a colossal puppet which really fills the Donald Gordon stage – that is intent on destroying him.

Neil actually describes it the best….

“It’s about memory and the imagination and standing up to the dark. It’s about being powerless and the sense that we can get through it together.”

It’s the set which instantly grabs you when you walk into the auditorium. Designer FLY DAVIS has created something incredibly special which almost takes your breath away at times. There’s branches and bits of tree over the stage which make the lane. The ocean in the tile is created from some pretty masterful acting from the cast and our own imagination in the audience. As for the magic, this is a show which is filled with illusion and some incredible special effects – actually, strike that – real magic happened on the stage last night.

The lighting by PAULE CONSTABLE and sound design from IAN DICKINSON makes this show completely immersive and like nothing you’ve experienced before. Add to that the illusions, puppetry and incredibly choreographed movement and this is about as complete a theatrical experience as you’ll find.

We spoke to some of the audience at the end of the opening night performance who were clearly enthralled by what they had seen on stage. We spoke to a guy who had just experienced his first ever visit to the theatre, and a Mother and Daughter who travelled 12 hours, by train, to see the show in Wales.


I also realise that I haven’t mentioned the cast as yet, who are not only incredibly talented but also have this other ‘stuff‘ to negotiate on stage, which they do seamlessly.

Within seconds you’ll forget that the role of ‘Boy’ is played by an adult KEIR OGILVY. There’s barely a scene where he isn’t on stage. He draws us right into the story, and his world, with such passion and sentiment. Keir is unbelievably good, even as I write this I can’t comprehend how incredibly good his performance was. Alongside MILLIE HIKASA who plays Lettie we are reminded what it’s like to be a child, with moments of genuine terror and magic.

TREVOR FOX is Dad and brings a powerful and sometimes tender performance to a man tortued by the loss of his wife and constantly trying to do right by his kids.

I’m not an Eastenders watcher but I do know the body of work by CHARLIE BROOKS who plays the part of Ursula. OMG, she is superb in this role. Seriously, you can’t take your eyes off her when she’s on stage. Ursula is definitely not what she first seems and Charlie takes us from sweet to sinister with such disarming ease. There’s also a show-stealing sequence which includes magical doors. What goes to make this scene come to life on stage is pure magic but Charlie is really impressive in it too. I guarantee you’ll have a sneaky ‘how the hell…..‘ whisper to the person next to you, it’s a beautifully choreographed scene.

I must say, in the nicest, most complimentary way possible, Charlie does evil really, really well.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Photo: Pamela Raith)

This is though an ensemble piece, not only of on stage talent but the magically technical talent which brings the show to life – and death occasionally.

The ensemble take control of the puppets with such deft skill that you easily forget they are there – even though you can see them in the black costumes. The puppetry is both beautiful and mesmerisingly scary at times.

I want to direct you to the National Theatre show site, they are the team who created this stage adaptation. You can meet the full cast, find out more about the story, and grab the educational resources which accompany the production – HERE.

I’ve deliberately steered away from saying too much. This is one piece of theatre you need to enjoy with all the surprises it brings. I was thinking it’s a little like the movie Sixth Sense – not in story or plot, although it does deal with trauma, loss, grief and the power of friendship. Like that film, the first time you see this play is incredible. Going into it with minimum knowledge is definitely a good thing.

What you do need to know is that it is a must see spectacle. Characters disappear here and reappear there. Props magically pop out of nowhere. There’s steam rising from the bath and smoke coming from the grill as toast burns to a crisp. You will be transfixed by what you see, and shocked by the sounds you hear (on more than one occasion). I urge you not to miss it.

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is at the Wales Millennium Centre through to Saturday 3rd June. Performances are at 7:30pm each evening with a 2:30pm matinee on Thursday and Saturday. Tickets start at £15.00 and you can get yours HERE.

And you can see our original show feature, along with an interview with Neil Gaiman – HERE.