In a story about growing up, a man remembers his childhood, where he met a mysterious girl from the nearby farm. Looking back in time, we see their friendship grow as she introduces him to her family and a duck pond that is really a magical ocean – together they are plunged into an adventure of trust, tension, and time, fighting to push back a horrible creature that shouldn’t have made it into this world.  


This review needn’t be longer than a single sentence: believe the hype. 

But allow me to indulge, and explain how each element of this production stitches together seamlessly to create a triumph of theatrical prowess before our very eyes. 


Joel Horwood’s script is deliberate, mysterious, and fun – we laugh as much as we sigh in sympathy and not a single word is out of place. Combined with Jherek Bischoff’s epic composition, the foundations for the show are already a force to be reckoned with.  

A veritable visual feast, Fly Davis’ gorgeous set design and Samuel Wyer’s costumes and puppets (directed beautifully by Finn Caldwell) combine with Paule Constable’s forcefully potent lighting and Ian Dickinson’s sound to startle, stagger, and amaze us at every turn. Katy Rudd’s direction is powerfully decisive and focused – she understands exactly what will engage an audience in each moment, and exploits her insight to its most impactful ends.  


Rudd uses the entirety of the auditorium as her stage, drawing us into the action and delighting us with the spectacle. This makes way for Jamie Harrison’s magic and illusions to grasp their full exceptional potential – from amusing prop comedy to awe-inspiring fantasy brought to life, the cinematic feel of this piece never once dwindles. Moments of trickery ignite gasps and screams of horror and delight from a bemused and amazed audience on the edge of their seats.  


Each cast member brings their all to this piece. The ensemble work is mesmerising, providing a sense of a living and breathing set and story (hinting at the themes of growth and change that underpin this tale) as well as fantastic moments of subtle humour in their perfectly choreographed movements.  


Coupling her ensemble role with that of Sis, Laurie Ogden delights us with her silly but all-too-familiar depiction of the annoying younger sister. Trevor Fox twins heart-breaking understatement with shocking unbridled rage for a complex and nuanced performance as Dad. If there is one critique to be made of this entire production, it is only to encourage a more vivid vocal (specifically accent) distinction between Fox’s portrayal of older Boy and Dad, a comment that should serve to emphasise just how spectacular the show is.  


Charlie Brooks is in her element as Ursula, the villain of the piece. She relishes in her trademark “butter wouldn’t melt with a hint of pure evil” characterisation, indulging in the arrogance of a monster who is afraid of (almost) nothing! Brooks is constantly doing something interesting if she’s on stage, whether the centre of the scene or not, and her mere presence immediately sets us on edge. 


Kemi-Bo Jacobs and Finty Williams perform wonderfully as Ginnie Hempstock and Old Mrs Hempstock respectively – Jacobs offers a tender but concerned mother figure, while Williams leans into the fun and tenderness of her seemingly omnipotent character. They both capture the necessary maternal qualities required for these characters without it feeling forced, and work together (alongside Millie Hikasa) to present really touching familial comradery on stage.  


Hikasa, as Lettie Hempstock, partners with Keir Ogilvy’s Boy to lead this cast with unparalleled force. Ogilvy exhibits touching vulnerability in his performance while Hikasa is endearing, fun, mysterious, sweet, and commanding – she brings to life an incredibly challenging character with complete mastery.  


This production will leave you moved, enthralled, and inspired.  


Not to be missed, Ocean at the End of the Lane runs at the Noël Coward Theatre until 25th November. Tickets from £25: here.



Review: Penny Lane       Photos: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg