The Ocean at the End of the Lane in the West End

‘Wonderful puppets & startling visual effects’: THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE – West End

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Neil Gaiman’s supernatural family thriller The Ocean at the End of the Lane has transferred from the National to the West End’s Duke of York’s Theatre. Like the hit stage version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (that also began its life in the Dorfman), it is similarly about a teenager on a journey of discovery confronting a mysterious adult world that he feels out of kilter with.

But even if that play is strongly echoed at times, and is presented with a similarly evocative sense of theatrical flair and daring, it operates on a more fantastical level, even as it offers a touching portrait of a family touched by loss. There are some wonderful puppets and startling visual effects, too.

At the tiny Jermyn Street Theatre, it was another thrill to see the sensational Charlotte Emerson and glorious theatre veteran Siân Phillips in Samuel Beckett’s wise and haunting poetic meditations Footfalls and Rockabye. It may run for just 40 minutes, but seeing this in such close quarters was intense and exhilarating.

By contrast, the new comedic stage version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (Sort of) — with that subtitle giving the nod that it is not exactly a conventional treatment of the famous story — felt to me to outstay its welcome at over two and a half hours. Given how many loving liberties Isobel McArthur (who also appears in multiple roles, and co-directs it as well with Simon Harvey, with additional comedy staging by Jos Houben) has taken with Austen, it is surprising that this show’s team didn’t seek to reign it in a bit in terms of length.

I’ve already documented last Friday how the view from my seat in the second row of the dress circle was so severely compromised that I found it difficult to fully engage with the show, so it is unfair to criticise it too much. Without what was effectively a pair of human pillars directly in front of me, I might have been able to enjoy it more. At the same time, this is a realistic danger that audiences might find themselves in, so it is also fair to point it out.

‘Wonderful puppets & startling visual effects’: @ShentonStage catches @NationalTheatre’s transfer of @OceanWestEnd at @dukeofyorksLDN as part of his weekly round-up. #OceanWestEnd #theatrereviews

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Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.
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Mark Shenton on FacebookMark Shenton on RssMark Shenton on Twitter
Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton has been a full-time freelance London-based theatre critic and journalist since 2002, and is proud to have co-founded MyTheatreMates with Terri Paaddock. He has variously (and sometimes simultaneously) been chief theatre critic for the Sunday Express, The Stage, WhatsOnStage, What's On in London magazine and LondonTheatre.co.uk. He has taught at ArtsEd London in Chiswick on musical theatre history since 2012. He was until recently President of the Critics' Circle, and is also on the board of Mercury Musical Developments and the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF). You can follow him on Twitter @ShentonStage, and on instagram at @ShentonStage. His personal website is www.shentonstage.com.

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