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Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane at Sunderland Empire

Keir Ogilvy (Boy), Millie Hikasa (Lettie), Kemi-Bo Jacobs (Ginnie) and the cast of The Ocean at the End of the Lane All images credit Brinkhoff-Moegenburg
What's on
March 2023
Reading time 4 Minutes

By far the most magical show we've seen at Sunderland Empire, here's exactly what to expect from The Ocean at the End of the Lane starring Eastenders' Charlie Brooks

Having heard great reviews about this show and the book it's based on, and being big fans of Charlie Brooks, we were looking forward to our visit to the theatre - and we weren't disappointed.
Domonic Ramsden, Keir Oglivy (Boy), Aimee McGolderick and Millie Hikasa (Lettie) in The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Millie Hikasa (Lettie), Keir Ogilvy (Boy) in The Ocean at the End of the Lane

It’s far from a simple story, so you’ve really got to focus on this one, but the show is so brilliantly performed and there’s so much happening on stage, you won’t want to look away. A slow burner, the scene was set with simplistic set design and characters with big personalities – but things started to take a strange turn.

When a man returns to his childhood home, he finds himself beside the pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. Quickly, we were transported to his 12th birthday when his peculiar friend Lettie claimed it wasn't a pond, but an ocean (stay with us). Their survival depends on their ability to reckon with ancient forces that threaten to destroy everything around them (Charlie Brooks’ character Ursula and a team of monsters).

Charlie Brooks (Ursula) and Keir Ogilvy (Boy) in The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Our imagination was already running wild as strange things take place on stage after the boy meets Lettie – hands appearing from places they shouldn’t, and a hole in his heart. Fantastic puppetry (very Stranger Things-like monsters) and the skilful and precise moving of props brought it all together as things just got stranger and stranger.

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We’d be spoiling the show to give too much away but a particular scene of light trickery and moving doors performed with precision by Charlie was our favourite – we’re still unsure just how she jumped from doorway to doorway. Another beautifully creative scene saw her levitating in the air. The magic of such scenes was all in the clever lighting.

The truly fantastic Trevor Fox, playing Dad, calmed the mayhem with his classic dad jokes, consistently burning toast and always having the wisdom his two children needed. With references to Alice in Wonderland and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, this show is a unique representation of memories and the idea of never growing up. Take a deep dive into the magic of memories – this is a show audiences of all ages won’t want to miss.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is suitable for ages 12 and over, and is showing at Sunderland Empire until Saturday 4th March 2023. 

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