“Dripping in darkness and suspense” – The Ocean at the End of the Lane at The Regent Theatre

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If there’s one show you book tickets to see this year, make it The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I’ve had the privilege of seeing no fewer than 21 productions this year, but this is by far one of the best on-stage marvels I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing – if not topping the leaderboard. 

Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s beloved novel – initially written to give his wife insight into the place he grew up – this gripping production has its viewers leave reality at the door, taking them on a spellbinding journey through the realms of memory, imagination, and childhood wonder. 

A description of the play reads: “Returning to his childhood home, a man finds himself standing beside the pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. He’s transported to his 12th birthday when his remarkable friend Lettie claimed it wasn’t a pond, but an ocean–a place where everything is possible… Plunged into a magical world, their survival depends on their ability to reckon with ancient forces that threaten to destroy everything around them. “


The boy at the centre of this story is unnamed, adding to the sense of mystery. As an adult, he returns to his childhood home for a funeral, bumping into a former neighbour, Old Mrs Hempstock. As they converse, the man morphs into his father while his younger self joins him on stage as we are catapulted into the 80s where this thrilling adventure of fantasy, myth and friendship began.

The dark nature of this production is immediate from the start, delving into themes of suicide and trauma, but the youngster finds friendship and distraction in neighbour Lettie Hempstock, who’s peculiar witchy family take him under their wing. The death of the family lodger has caused a rip in the universe, and something untoward has been trying to get in. For those who have seen Stranger Things, or enjoyed shows like American Horror Story, Supernatural and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will find themselves engrossed by The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Gaiman’s nightmarish monsters brought to life by the National Theatre, the same company that produced War Horse for the stage.


Embodying the biggest evil of them all, though, was none other than EastEnders actress Charlie Brooks. And if you thought Janine Butcher was conniving and cruel, she’d have certainly met her match for manipulative and sinister Ursula Monkton, who has consumed the young boy’s brain, threatens to tear his family apart, and refuses to go back to ‘the edges’.

The production’s visual and set design was nothing short of astonishing as Brooks seemingly walked through one door and reappeared the other side of the stage, causing unfathomable confusion among the crowd. Gaiman has always loved stage magic, ‘from childhood coin tricks to the subversive humour of Penn and Teller’, and Ocean’s has a wonderful way of tricking the mind and having you questioning your own eyes.


The stage transformed effortlessly from a reality to a dreamlike landscape through a combination of practical effects and inventive lighting, with the ensemble making every transition incredibly slick, becoming a character in their own right. Meanwhile, surround sound made for a completely immersive experience, from the haunting score to the sound of Hunger Birds tearing prey limb from limb.

But the most beautiful and tender scene had to be when Lettie and the boy find solace in the ocean, the stage becoming a shimmering and vast pool of water. This set piece was visually stunning, and the audience marvelled as the characters ‘swam’ through the deep blue.


The heart of the play lies in the extraordinary performances by the cast, and the friendship that blossoms between quirky but courageous Lettie (Millie Hikasa) and Kier Ogilvy’s ‘boy’. Millie brings an air of sass to Lettie’s character, with witty humour and independent attitude, but as the show goes on, I was drawn in by her emotional depth and how she connected with Kier – equally as talented, portraying a boy who is oft frightened, escaping the world through stories like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe or Alice in Wonderland. His portrayal of fears and curiosities was authentic and raw, at times feeling as though I was peering directly into the mind of Gaiman.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is dripping in darkness and suspense. Brimming with tension, it transports audiences to a world where the boundaries between reality and fantasy blurred, and where the magic of storytelling came alive before my eyes. Combining phenomenal acting with stunning special effects and a touch of enchantment, it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. And if you’d like to catch it this week at The Regent Theatre, you can get a discounted ticket for just £15 using my link here.


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