It seems like forever since I was last at the theatre (so long ago that—barring open air Shakespeare in Chester or Polesden Lacey, or semi-open at the Globe—I seriously can’t remember when), so it was a delight to go with Heather to see the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, transferring from the National to the little Duke Of York’s Theatre.
Ocean is a little book about the borders of childhood and adulthood, reality and dream, a place where an entire ocean may well fit in a bucket. Inevitably a stage adaptation has to make some changes, though remains surprisingly close to the source. Perhaps the most noticeable is the absence (through death) of the boy’s mother, which inevitably changes the audience’s readings of the rest of the families response to Ursula. Personally I thought it reduces the manipulative, ingratiating behaviour of the other wordly nanny, but it’s a minor quibble. Given the emotion of the rest of it it’s perhaps best that no kittens were present!
The music and imagery are outstanding, clever use of dark voids (the stage set before the start is particularly foreboding) and glowing door frames dragging us into the sense of fear. The puppetry when encountering Skarthach and later with the Hunger Birds is excellent and captures the original’s blowing sheets and rags that brings us from here to somewhere not quite different. The only bit of imagery I wanted and didn’t get was the Hempstock farm glowing in response to Skarthach’s attempt to enter. Still, the Moon is in the right place, and Old Mrs Hempstock is as fearsome and unfathomably old as ever in the imagination.
The protagonist leaves forgetting again, and we leave emotional if not sure why. We’d seen a matinee, so it was a bit disconcerting to come out into the winter darkness. Luckily we were soon meeting Gemma in the The Marquis to calm us down.
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