Review: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

Review: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

It’s a rare occasion to go to the Grand Opera House having not read or heard anything about what I was about to see. It turns out what I did see was an extraordinary National Theatre production based on a novel by Neil Gaiman, adapted by Joel Horwood and directed by Katy Rudd.

The world premiere was at the Dorfman Theatre in London in 2019, revived at the Duke of York’s Theatre in 2021 and this first UK and Ireland tour runs from December 2022 until September 2023.

It’s a story about the past, about memories, about what we choose to remember and forget, and about life. It’s about magic and history and childhood imaginations and dreams and friendships. It’s about life and loss and influence and emotion.

You arrive into the theatre to a set of oversized willow type structures, like something deep in a forest or a cave-like scene and you imagine it’s somewhere eyes will appear as they watch you. As different scenes are created, the set pieces appear and disappear as if it’s a beautifully choreographed dance performance. The sound effects are phenomenal; loud and booming and they fill the theatre with drama. Dramatic lighting and effects come together with the rest of the staging to create a stunning looking stage.

The cast almost dance around in yet more perfectly choreographed movements, fighting off dementor like creatures, moving masterfully with beautiful puppetry, recreating underwater scenes and flying high.

The story centres around friendship between the bookish boy, his dad, their mysterious lodgers and the Hempstock family next door and their ‘energy’, is it an energy or is it witchcraft?. It’s dark with death, suicide and grief, it’s also magical, intense and dream-like. 

Interestingly in a week when a plaque commemorating nine people convicted of witchcraft in 1711 was unveiled at the Gobbins Visitor Centre (read more here), here we have possible witches fighting against evil on stage in the Opera House.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is a sight to behold and a very unique theatre experience as fantasy, sci-fi, myth and imagination take you on an adventure. You’ll notice hints of Stranger Things and The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time in the production, but they are just hints. You’ll still be thinking about it days later as you try and process what you’ve seen.

I think I’ll be getting a copy of the book; The Ocean at the End of the Lane (affiliate link opens in new window)


Find more previews and reviews on Belfast Times 

Runs at Grand Opera House, Belfast until Saturday 25 March.

Tickets available from 


Production photo

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