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The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Liverpool Empire

Reviewer: John McRoberts

Writer: Neil Gaiman

Adaptor: Joel Horwood

Director: Katy Rudd

Neil Gaiman’s tale of magical realism, where the worlds of memory and reality collide, where our imagination and our perception are equally questioned, is magically and vividly brought to life in this epic adaptation by Joel Horwood and directed with aplomb by Katy Rudd.

Boy (Kier Oglivy) lives with his Dad (Trevor Fox) and his annoying younger sister (Laurie Ogden). Dad is working all the hours he can to survive and has even resorted to renting out his son’s bedroom to earn more money from having a lodger. A suicide of a former lodger finds Boy in the company of the Hempstock family – Young Lettie (Millie Hikasa), Mrs Hempstock (Kemi-Bo Jacobs) and Old Mrs Hempstock (Finty Williams), here they live a quiet life out on the farm, usually keeping themselves to themselves, but as Boy soon finds out, they are looking after more than just the farm. In fact, the Hempstock family are protectors, protectors of a force trying to break from another world into ours and it is their “Job” to bind these forces and stop them from breaking free.

Katy Rudd’s epic production is a visual, aural, and visceral feast – at every moment the production weaves excellent physical theatre, carefully crafted and imagined by Steven Hoggat, atmospherically stunning lighting designed by Paule Constable, all this playing out on Fly Davis’ stunning set design while Jherek Bischoff’s underscoring gives the show a filmic sensibility which adds another level of depth to proceedings.

There is so much to see and take in with this production, from the gripping puppetry which is executed at the smallest and largest scale possible on a stage as big as the Empire. Illusions and magic are executed perfectly and beautifully choreographed scenic transitions. All of these may threaten to overshadow the actual story, but instead, they all work and pull harmoniously together.

While it may seem that it’s the creative elements that steal the show, its cast are equally impressive. Fox is brilliant as the Father, while Flinty Williams’ matriarch has real gravitas. Eastenders star Charlie Brooks commands the stage as the mysterious new lodger Ursula, but the evening really belongs to a pair of captivating performances from Hikasa and Oglivy who bounce and play off each other with real affection and lightness.

The Ocean at The End of the Lane – is something rare, a perfect night of theatre, which showcases talent both on and off stage at the highest calibre. It is pure magic and like its predecessors (Curious Incident and War Horse) deserves to continue touring and thrilling generations of theatregoers young and old alike for many years to come!

Runs until Sat 6 May and continues its UK Tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Pure Magic

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The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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