Hex at The National Theatre
Hex is The National Theatre’s latest musical offering. It is a new musical based on the story of Sleeping Beauty. This tells of Fairy who is unable to fly, much to the mockery of the other High Fairies. In the woods she meets Smith, an aid to the Queen who has just given birth to a baby girl who refuses to sleep. Upon his insistence he takes her to the palace and after much begging and eventually threats from the Queen a hex is placed on the Princess. We then follow Fairy on her journey to try to wake the Princess and as we o we meet thorns, ogres and Princes galore.
The book by Tanya Ronder is an interesting one and is based upon not only Sleeping Beauty but its darker origins in Waking Beauty and the fairy tale by Charles Perrault. Hex gave me Into The Woods meets Wicked vibes with lots of twists on the traditional fairy tale which I loved. The fact that we followed the story from the Fairies point of view rather than Sleeping Beauty (or in this case Rose) also made it the show more intriguing and steered it away from the obvious. Hex also ensured that good and evil wasn’t black and white, with the Fairy being the one that placed the hex on Rose but only as a result of threats and then she is determined to make it right, or an ogre Queen who is trying to repress her true nature by seeking out a Fairy to help but even she is unable to supress her natural urges.
Hex is incredibly creative and a real feast for the eyes in all ways. From the High Fairies literally flying in and their costumes billowing serenely below them to the guts that spill across the stage when Queenie eats her meals, Hex has thought of everything. The set, designed by Katrina Lindsay sets the scene as soon as the audience walk in with spinning wheels floating in the air at different heights however as the show gets going a floating disney-esq castle is revealed as well as tables that rise from the floor. It is all used to maximum effect and when combined with the revolve in the Olivier theatre at the National it really ensures that the audience are transported to this magical world of fairies, Princesses and ogres.
The music by Jim Fortune and lyrics by Rufus Norris (also the director) is enjoyable throughout the show however this is one area that could do with development in so far as there were no real ear worms and consequently I’m not searching out any music from it. There are some strong numbers in the show such as ‘The One’ sung by Fairy or ‘I Know What I Am,’ sung by Queenie so there is certainty potential for the music to be developed to become something really great. It was also a strong point that each character or group of characters had their own sound, from the ska vibe of the thorns to the folk vibe of Fairy so there was a style of music for everyone.
The cast were exceptional for this show. Fairy was played by Lisa Lambe and she was sensational, a quirky performance but still one which oozed heart and a character that the audience immediately empathised with. Her voice was crystal clear and really suited the role and the songs that Fairy had to deliver. Another outstanding performance was Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Queenie. Her turmoil was apparent and her movement as an ogre was something to behold. Her voice was utterly bewitching and during ‘I Know What I Am,’ a song that was no mean feat to sing she had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand.
Rose was played by Rosie Graham. I adored the fact that she was allowed to portray Rose with her (I assume) natural Scottish accent. Rose was not written as a typical Princess and I love that Graham really portrayed her with plenty of grit and gumption about her. The rest of the cast were equally as strong with all of their character acting being spot on, especially when playing the rejected Princes or the thorns determined to send the suitors to sleep.
Hex is one of the most creative shows I have seen for years and with a few tweaks to the music this show could be developed into something really magical.
Hex has finished at the National Theatre but you can see what else they have on their via their website.