Hex ★★★ National Theatre | Nov 26, 2022 - Jan 14, 2023

This rewriting of the Sleeping Beauty story centres the tale around Fairy, a wingless outsider who is mocked by her high-flying counterparts. Instead of blessing the baby Rose, Fairy unintentionally puts a curse on the child which causes her to sleep for one hundred years. The inadvertent culprit then takes on the task of finding a suitable prince to awaken Rose and marry her. Things don't go well, however, and the half-ogre prince, Bert, who is immune to the thorns guarding Rose turns out to be a rather immature and selfish husband. There is a lot going on in this plot and also in the narrative themes. We are confronted with issues of self-acceptance, self-empowerment, the falsity of fairy tale endings, and the complexity of both accepting and overcoming one's nature. Moreover, just as the plot and themes of Hex seem overladen to the point of breaking, this is also a piece that confuses in terms of its genre. There are fairy tale elements, echoes of musicals like Wicked and moments of pantomime. While all of this sometimes seems to work, ultimately it leaves one confused about what the intentions were and what the main takeaway is supposed to be. Nevertheless, the performances are outstanding. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Queenie, Bert's ogre mother, was superb and her "I Know What I Am" was a definite showstopper only matched by the rendition of "Above It All" by Neïma Naouri, who played Fairy on our visit. Jim Fortune has written an engaging score with some very amusing as well as poignant moments. "Hello" is a charming love song, and we thoroughly enjoyed "One of These Days" sung by the Princes. As always, the National Theatre pulls out all the stops when it comes to production values. Visually this is a simply stunning production. It's a complex, and somewhat perplexing, version of Sleeping Beauty that is bound to awaken lots of interpretations and emotions.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Johan Persson.

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