Prepare to plunge into a pond of possibilities when The Ocean at the End of the Lane arrives in Milton Keynes this month.
The National Theatre’s critically acclaimed play, which is based on Neil Gaiman’s bestselling 2013 novel of the same name, takes audiences on an epic journey to a childhood once forgotten.
A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home in rural Sussex and is drawn to the farm where he used to play. He stands beside the duck pond and is transported to the day of his twelfth birthday, when his remarkable friend Lettie Hempstock claimed the pond was an ocean. A place where everything is possible. More memories flood back, of a magical world inhabited by ancient forces that are intent on destroying everything around the children. Where does imagination stop and reality begin?
Neil Gaiman is a celebrated British fantasy author, whose fan base includes young children, teenagers and adults. He has written novels, comics and short stories – some of his most famous works are Coraline, Good Omens, The Graveyard Book and The Sandman series – and many of them have been adapted into films or television dramas.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which premiered at London’s Dorfman Theatre in 2019 before wowing in the West End, is the first major stage adaptation of a Neil Gaiman work. It is adapted by Joel Horwood and directed by Katy Rudd. The award-winning creative team also includes Fly Davis (set designer), Samuel Wyer (costume and puppet designer), Steven Hoggett (movement director), Jherek Bischoff (composer), Paule Constable (lighting designer), Ian Dickinson (sound designer), Jamie Harrison (magic and illusions director and designer), Finn Caldwell (puppetry director) and Naomi Downham (casting director).
The cast members are: Charlie Brooks (Ursula), Daniel Cornish (alternate Boy), Trevor Fox (Dad), Emma-Jane Goodwin (understudy), Paolo Guidi (ensemble), Millie Hikasa (Lettie Hempstock), Lewis Howard (understudy), Kemi-Bo Jacobs (Ginnie Hempstock), Jasmeen James (understudy), Ronnie Lee (ensemble), Aimee McGoldrick (ensemble), Laurie Ogden (Sis), Keir Ogilvy (Boy), Domonic Ramsden (ensemble), Joe Rawlinson-Hunt (understudy), Risha Silvera (understudy) and Finty Williams (Old Mrs Hempstock).
The production promises to be a tour de force of storytelling and spectacle. It should appeal to fantasy lovers, story enthusiasts and theatregoers who enjoyed War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Bring on the adventure!
Running time: Approximately 2 hours 35 minutes, including one interval.
Contains high-intensity lighting, strobe lighting, haze and smoke, pyrotechnics, loud sound and blackouts. Includes references to, or staging of, death/suicide, domestic violence (parental abuse), loss and grief.
Age guidance: 12+
*Production photography by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg.
This preview is also featured on Total MK.
Update 28 June 2023: Read my review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane at Milton Keynes Theatre.
Georgina Butler is an editor, a dance writer and a ballet teacher.