14 January 2020

The Ocean at the End of the Lane at Dorfman Theatre was magical

Any adaptation of a Neil Gaiman story is going to be of interest to me even if it's a young adult story that I have not read and I was encouraged by seeing Coraline as an opera a couple of years ago.

This was my second visit to the new Dorfman Theatre in, but not really part of, the National Theatre complex so I knew that it was safe to go for the cheaper seats at the top level and I went for Gallery Row R Seat 44 at £34. You can see the view from my seat below.

Not having read the book I had no expectations but I soon learned that The Ocean at the End of the Lane was an otherworld story much in the mold as the excellent Stardust.

It was also a story of young friendships and very old daemons.

The story, as presented here, was fairly simple and without a narrator, or anyone thinking out loud, a lot of the beauty in the words in the book was lost (I know I've not read the book but I have ready plenty enough Neil Gaiman to know that there is beauty in the words here too). That sounds like a recipe for disappointment, and it almost is.

What lifts The Ocean at the End of the Lane from the disappointing to the magical is the staging; the sets change quickly and effortlessly, the daemons are real and scary, the sound and lighting conjure different moods and some of the set pieces are breathtaking.


The pyrotechnics may have been added to excite children, the play was advertised as suitable for ages 12+, but they were not there that night and, instead, it was a healthy mix of ages that were thrilled by the experience. It appeared to be a full house too.

The ensemble cast of little-knows (Googling now I find that I have seen a few of them on stage before) was excellent with most of them playing multiple roles, and not just multiple characters. The two "stars" were the boy and girl at the heart of the story and they were played superbly by Samuel Blenkin and Marli Siu. I was a little surprised when Samuel got a curtain call on his own when it was Marli who had impressed me the most, but it would be churlish to quibble about that too much.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a modern fairytale told in a rich and entertaining way.

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