Charlie Brooks going from EastEnders' cliffhanger to Ocean at the End of the Lane
IT takes something special to top being part of a ratings winning soap storyline over the festive period but Charlie Brooks will be doing just that when The Ocean at the End of the Lane opens at The Lowry on Monday.
In EastEnders, her character Janine Butcher will be involved in dramatic scenes over Christmas as the love triangle with Danny Dyer’s Mick and Kellie Bright’s Linda is finally resolved and Charlie will leave Albert Square which has been part of her life on and off for more than 20 years.
But with filming all wrapped up, she’s concentrating on the new National Theatre production which will see the West End smash based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, touring the UK for the first time.
“As soon as as I heard about the part and that the show was touring I started looking into it and got very excited about the prospect of bringing this story to life again,” she said. “I missed it when it was on in the West End but I was semi-familiar with Neil’s work.
“It’s one of those shows that the more you read and the further we go in rehearsals, the more discoveries you make. It’s so clever - it’s just like the ocean, it gets deeper and deeper.”
Having received five star reviews across the board while in London, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the story of a man returning to his childhood home and being transported back to his younger self. The mystical and enchanting storyline involves witches, suppressed memories and ancient forces.
Janine plays Ursula who comes into the young boys’ life following his mother’s death and who is far from what she seems.
“All she wants is to belong somewhere, to have a home and to make people happy,” said Janine,”but she goes about it the wrong way. Like the rest of the production there are so many layers to her. Having played Janine over the years she’s also revealed different layers to her character and I think it’s when you start to look and see why someone behaves in the way that they do which is so interesting.
“What’s so brilliant is that it has all come out of Neil Gaiman’s imagination and it is up to an audience member how they choose to receive that information and how they choose to view that character.”
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a spectacular production. There are amazing illusions and puppetry plays an important role as the production develops.
“I haven’t ever been in a rehearsal room like this one,” said Charlie. “I’ve been learning something new about the production and the storyline every day. What you think is just a small moment in the script turns out to be some humongous part of the storyline.
“It’s been amazing to see how these things come to life in a rehearsal room and what the production does is look at human connection and human behaviour, the complexities of that.”
To go into detail would give too much of the storyline away - it is one of those shows which needs to be experienced. But there are elements of Stranger Things - the award-winning Netflix series, science fiction and old fashioned witchcraft. It’s certainly not the obvious Christmas show.
“I think it’s a show full of hope,” said Charlie. “It explores memory, human connection. grief. friendship and healing told through the eyes of a man reminiscing about when he was a child.
“Oh and don’t forget that it’s set in the Eighties and it’s sort of neon pink!
“It’s fun a real adventure of a show, you certainly go on a journey with these characters
“The puppetry and the illusions are breathtaking. It’s worth coming to see just for that. So yes, I think it’s got a lot going for it even though there’s no tinsel.”
The Lowry is the first stop for Ocean’s UK tour which will keep Charlie with the show until June.
“We’ll be in Manchester for around five weeks which is a nice way to kick it off and really get under the skin of the play,” she said. “I think it’s so important that we are bringing a show like this to regional theatres. I’m from a very small town in North Wales and my nan used to take me on the coach when I was a little girl to see shows in Manchester or Liverpool, wherever they were on closest to us. It’s really important that we get this work out to the regions and they get an opportunity to see it because it is so brilliant.”
Charlie’s looking forward to the hectic touring schedule she’s signed up for.
“The way I see touring is that I’m going to places around UK that I have probably never been to or certainly have not spent a week at. And I get paid to do that and do what I love in the evening and on matinees. It’s a perfect job.”
So will she miss EastEnders?
“I can’t sit still for very long which is why I’ve been in and out of the show over the years. But I’ve had the best 18 months there, it’s been absolutely wonderful and action packed and there’s not going to be a dull moment with Janine as we approach Christmas. It was absolutely brilliant to play but I craved being back in the theatre and in a rehearsal room and I feel really grateful that this job came along.”
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Lowry. Salford Quays, Monday, December 12 to Sunday, January 8. Suitable for audiences 12+. Details from www.thelowry.com