Hex - National Theatre
Updated: Dec 17, 2022
A fairy (Lisa Lambe) called Fairy (yep, it’s one of those shows) puts a hex on Rose (Rosie Graham), or for the uninitiated like me, a curse, but because she’s a fairy, she lost her magic powers because fairies are only supposed to bless people rather than curse them. The problem for me is that she appeared to have hexed me as well. Reader, I nodded off, but rather like watching a soap opera, the narrative progresses slower than a District line train crawling into Earl’s Court, so as far as I’m concerned, I missed nothing.
This is, so the cover of the show’s programme says, “a musical based on Sleeping Beauty”, and despite putting women front and centre in this (admittedly unwieldy) narrative, the issue of whether the princess – in this case, Rose – actually consents to being kissed by a prince isn’t entirely resolved, although it is quickly evident that she doesn’t exactly object. The plot does make sense when one thinks about it (I had sufficient time to do so on the Tube home: the prince that gets picked, Bert (Michael Elcock) – some people in the audience at the performance I attended found the name ‘Bert’ funny – is the son of an ogress, named only as Queenie (Victoria Hamilton-Brown).
As this one didn’t have monstrous features it took me a little while to recall what an ogress even was – Queenie, in her first scene, is heavily pregnant, and solicits the help of Fairy because she doesn’t want to eat her own child and wants to be rid of her urge to do so. Fair enough. But Fairy’s loss of magic powers eventually catches up with her, with potentially disastrous consequences, and I was sufficiently invested in proceedings to want to know how things would turn out.
It is difficult to categorise Hex, which in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except it would seem that it’s trying to be too many things at once. A love story is there, and it’s the same one as Sleeping Beauty. It is no spoiler to state that the prince, princess and their children live happily ever after, thus ensuring a musical theatre happy ending. But there are frankly rather dull subplots about, for instance, some other princes who were also hexed and retain a lust for Rose even after she has started a family with Bert.
Some of the musical numbers were, for me, a test of endurance – one of them, which appears in the first half and is reprised in the second, has different characters who have already introduced themselves to one another continuing to sing ‘hi’ and ‘hello’. I suppose I ought to be grateful we were spared a corresponding tune when they parted company in which they sing ‘bye’ and ‘goodbye’. The production values are high, with some fabulous staging. But the music is banal and forgettable – I didn’t come away with a single tune or lyric from the show in my head. It was so bad I’m having a more enjoyable experience listening to some drunk people indulging in karaoke next door as I type this (I’m not taking it upon myself to knock on their door to tell them to stop singing, as technically they aren’t singing). Great costumes though. In Hex, I mean. I don't know what the ladies next door are wearing.