Arts Reviews

“So Purposeful With Every Effect”- Theatre Review: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane @ Theatre Royal

Jasmine Butler

The Ocean at the End of the Lane shows exactly what theatre is capable of. The world of the production is filled with magic and the supernatural, which is portrayed so purposefully and enchantingly that you find yourself on the edge of your seat whilst watching. Jasmine Butler reviews.

Perhaps this is my personal bias as a theatre techie myself, but I spent a huge amount of the show enamoured with the lighting. The use of backlighting that shone forwards into the audience created a real feeling of immersion. This was particularly effective when using intense flashes of light at the audience to enhance a trick onstage, where it felt like one actor was flashing between spaces.

Paule Constable[‘s] design was noticeable and effective

The attention to detail in this production was incredible – it had clearly been rehearsed cohesively – the technical elements were so in touch with the performers and set that every effect was done incredibly precisely.

Most impressive was the way the lights worked with the set. The entwined branches that were around the edge of the stage began to glow during intense moments, which then showed that they were made more of wire than branch, giving a sudden industrial feel to the production.

Paule Constable is an amazing lighting designer who also worked on War Horse, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and Complicité’s recent production Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead. Her design was noticeable and effective, always working with the other elements of the show. When referencing a car crossing the stage for only a moment, she placed two moving lights in the wing and mimicked the beam of a car’s lights crossing the stage.

This show managed to make the supernatural feel incredibly human

The most stunning part of the performance was the integration of puppetry. The ‘hunger birds’ were portrayed with huge skeletal wings and dark twisted bodies that were enough to give anyone nightmares. Their scene was particularly impactful, as it married the supernatural and the real world in a heartbreaking manner.

The Boy (who is never named in the production) is told to stay within a fairy ring and wait to be rescued, as the hunger birds want to take him away. They will do anything to manipulate him out, using shapeshifting to become his sister and best friend, Lettie, interspersed with awful images of the birds themselves and the shadow of his dead lodger, who committed suicide at the start of the play.

The Boy also believes his dad to be an image created by the hunger birds, leading to a heartbreaking exchange between the two in which he confronts his dad about his recently passed mother. This show managed to make the supernatural feel incredibly human.

I have never seen an 11-year-old behave the way that these characters did

My only qualm with the production was the writing. Even to an audience member who knew very little about the show before watching it, it was clear that there were huge plot points within the book that were being skimmed over by the show. I consistently felt one step behind. The production value meant I felt every emotion I was supposed to, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the show, even if it wasn’t always clear why the events were occurring the way they were.

This came through particularly with the characters of Lettie and the Boy, who were supposed to be 11-12 years old. As someone who works with children, I have never seen an 11-year-old behave the way that these characters did – it took a moment for me to get over the childlike performances, as it felt slightly jarring to have such childish acting in a character that was slightly older than that. Perhaps this was intentional and I didn’t understand it, but to me it felt out of place with the rest of the production.

a sickly kind of evil that makes your skin crawl

The principal actors gave an incredible performance. Particularly the performance of Trever Fox as ‘Dad’ who also played the Boy as an adult, with a Geordie accent, and the clearly visible struggle he was going through by losing his wife and feeling out of touch with his children, attempting to keep the family together through turmoil – he balanced an incredibly difficult character with such naturalism that you empathised with him throughout.

Charlie Brooks played Ursula – the evil demon who manipulated the Boy’s family into trusting her. She was the perfect middle ground between Mrs Hannigan and Professor Umbridge – a sickly kind of evil that makes your skin crawl. When the Boy locked himself in his room, the illusion where she stuck her hand through the door and into the arm of his dressing gown to unlock it had me on the edge of my seat.

I was also completely enamoured with Finty Williams’ Old Mrs Hempstock- the slightly batty grandma with the ability for magic, who is much more concerned with making cheese than the disasters going on around her. She was witty and hilarious for most of the play, but when she wielded her powers of magic it made the whole audience sit in silent awe.

managed to make the audience feel incredible emotion with every scene

From puppetry to moving set, incredible lighting and 360° sound design, the production team of this show have a lot to be proud of. The ensemble combined physical theatre with puppetry to incredible effect. This show used almost every technique possible to create magic, and often when productions do that they run the risk of it becoming a gimmick, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane was so purposeful with every effect.

It was a spectacle that also managed to make the audience feel incredible emotion with every scene.

Jasmine Butler

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

For more content including uni news, reviews, entertainment, lifestyle, features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.

If you can’t get enough of Impact Reviews, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and like our Facebook page for updates on our new articles.

Arts ReviewsReviews

Leave a Reply