Sunday, 15 December 2019

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I was both excited and wary when I heard that the National Theatre would be doing a production based on Neil Gaiman's novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane excited because I love Neil's work, and Ocean is a book which speaks to me particularly deeply, and wary because it isn't a book which lends itself easily to being adapted.

I am seeing the play with friends next week, but also booked to see the first preview, as I feel that you get a different experience when you go to the theatre alone, and  can focus solely on the production, then you do when you are also enjoying a social experience. Plus, I thought that if the adaptation was good, I might well want to see it more than once!

I was not disappointed. Going into the Dorfman foyer, there is a projection (complete with lightning) of the Boy in the storm, then going into the theatre there is the set, with a great arched backdrop of thorns and brambles.

In the opening scene we see the adult 'boy', standing at the grave of his father, and we are off!

I was really impressed with the production - despite my concerned, it really, really works, both as a stand alone piece of theatre and as an adaptation of the book. 

The production uses puppetry, with visible puppeteers, to bring the Skarthach and the Hunger Birds to life, and they do so magnificently - the Skarthach is huge, a spider-like creature of rags and rubbish, and the huger birds are terrifying creatures - more frightening than the Skarthach itself.

Samuel Blenkin and Marli Siu, as the boy, and Lettie Hempstock respectively, are both excellent, and Pippa Nixon makes a superb, scary Ursula Monkton.
Set (during the interval) - thorns and
part of the Hempstock's kitchen  

There are some changes to the novel - the Boy's father is a widower, and he is a little older, but in general it's very faithful to it's source, and the changes are mainly, I think to pare it down to fit a 2 hours play.

It's very good - heartbreaking and magical and frightening in all the right ways. The set and staging are very good - from the nostalgic warmth of the Hempstock's kitchen, to the frightening ubiquity of Ursula as she moves impossibly fast from door to door. 

I can't wait to see it again.  

The play i on at the National Theatre until 25th January. I believe it is almost sold out but there are a few tickets still on some days, and day tickets and returns are available - if you can, do go!