The National Theatre’s production is currently on a UK tour – here’s what critics have been saying about it so far…

(c) Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Messenger Newspapers: ***** “It’s a show with real presence, it just feels special and it will keep you enthralled throughout before leaving you with a myriad of questions about what you have just witnessed.”

Broadway World: ***** “The triumph of this staging is that it represents an ingenious collaboration of tremendous artistry: Paule Constable’s Olivier-Award winning lighting design shimmers in tandem with Ian Dickinson’s sound design and Jherek Bischoff’s chillingly atmospheric compositions. A set design from Fly Davis sees the playing space flanked by otherworldly thorns with ample empty darkness in which Jamie Harrison’s genuinely astounding magic thrives. Meanwhile Steven Hoggett oversees stylistic movement and Samuel Wyer’s puppetry designs enchant under the expert direction of Finn Caldwell, all with visionary Katy Rudd at the helm.”

Great British Life: ***** “The cast must be exhausted by the end of each show. The intensity of the performance, every moment they are on stage, is what draws the audience so deeply into the story. Boy and Lettie are by turns typical tweens – fun and funny – and in the depths of a battle with the evillest of monsters, intensely physical and deeply emotional. Boy, played by Keir Ogilvy, has an innocence and vulnerability that must make every mother in the room just want to scoop him up and keep him safe. Lettie, played marvellously by Millie Hikasa, is bold and bolshie, kind and contemptuous, terribly young, yet wise beyond her years. Charlie Brooks, in the role of the interloper into Boy’s family of three, is marvellous – a sweet and kind carer, with an underlying nastiness only we, and Boy, can see. There’s not a soul on that stage who doesn’t give their all, from the name characters to the team who lift, spin, dance and carry them.”

The Reviews Hub: **** 1/2 “Overall, this production is a theatrical feast for the senses and a testament to how theatre can transport you to other worlds. There are moments of real darkness intertwined with purely captivating magic.”


The Telegraph: *** “It’s both a bit technical and unfair to argue for the redeeming intimacy of the Dorfman auditorium. Yet performed on that theatre’s thrust stage, this show in its first iteration thrived on a claustrophobic, stealthy horror in which the combined uncanny effect of Samuel Wyer’s nastily tentacular puppets, the hallucinatory use of strobe light and a quite extraordinarily terrifying sequence involving sinister new “help” Ursula and a set of doors, seemed to creep off the stage into the minds of the audience in ways that cleverly mirrored the psychological contamination of Boy himself. Much of that immersive dread is, alas, flattened out under the proscenium arch at Salford Lowry, where the emphasis instead seems more to be on delivering one big-bang theatrical effect after another.”

Manchester “The production of this show is out of this world- literally!  The use of psychological illusion, slight of hand, magic, and the manipulation of our instinctual primal fears all combine to redefine theatre.  There is a creature in the story called the Flea, and my goodness, it is unbelievable.  I don’t even know what to call the creation of this character.  To say it is puppetry would give you a preconception that is so far removed from the reality presented.  It is puppetry on steroids that has morphed and blurred the lines of truth and fiction.  You know it’s not real, except you blindly believe it is.  The way the ensemble manipulates this creature is phenomenal and its design is such that you never know where its head will emerge from, or which part of the creature will take dominance next.”

Theatre Reviews **** “Rudd uses her ensemble too in the workaday task of scene-changing, having them spirit tables, chairs and other props in and out with a sinister, balletic grace (the movement director is Steven Hoggett). Another sequence, in which the nanny first disturbs the Boy by going in and out of a series of illuminated doors so as to appear double is, similarly, wonderfully proficient. Rudd’s visual sense and her deployment of an expert team clearly mark her as an exceptional director.”

WhatsOnStage: ***** “We see the same depths in the well of unspoken anguish that anchors down Trevor Fox’s Dad, carrying himself with a weight of grief – his pauses look like efforts to keep it buried so it doesn’t surface. His slow, tired voice also carries a disappointment about trying to be a better father than his own, contrasted against the whimpers and higher pitch of Keir Ogilvy as his sorrowing son. Millie Hikasa is endearingly coltish as his friend, Lettie, while Charlie Brooks’ sinister Ursula starts with unnatural sweetness – every tone honeyed and movement fluid – before turning it inside out into thorny menace.”

(c) Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

I Love Manchester: “This is a huge production and The Lowry is the perfect stage to start this tour. Instead of scrolling your phone for bargains that you don’t want or need on Boxing Day, I would take a trip to The Ocean at the End of Lane, as it will surprise and dazzle you into submission.”

North West End: ***** “The appeal of ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ is universal and timeless. Its superb evocation of traditional children’s literature for an older generation, combined with an arresting story that will excite the most jaded teenage palate. When brought to life by a creative team from the National Theatre at the top of their game it is just superb theatre. I urge you not to miss this show.”

Big Issue “Ultimately though, this is a play steeped in childhood wonder, memory and storytelling. Childhood tales such as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Hobbit, and more recent classics such as The Dark Crystal are woven into the play’s DNA. And while this may not be a production suitable for younger children, with its dark and wonderous magic, this story may well awaken the child within you.”

To find out more about the tour visit: