The National Theatre’s Christmas show isn’t exactly a Christmas show. Hex is a modern interpretation of Sleeping Beauty, a boldly imaginative spectacle that is more than a touch macabre.
In terms of the plot, a fairy lives deep in a forest and one day a palace worker running from a baby-eating ogre stumbles upon her and asks the magical being to cast a spell on a royal princess.
Yes, there’s a baby eating ogre. It’s a bellwether for how Hex struggles to find a tone that’s appropriate for children and their parents. To be fair, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt plays the ogre well, stomping around the stage like, well, an ogre in pursuit of a small child. But it’s too weird and uncomfortable a premise to feel like a passable idea.
It’s one of a few tonal misfires. At the end of the first act, a character shouts “shit” as the last word in the act which in context is neither funny nor appropriate for the audience. It’s also overlong, feeling its two-and-a-half hours.
That isn’t to say that most kids won’t enjoy the spectacular look of the show – there are brilliant costumes by Katrina Lindsay and it looks a million dollars – and the swearing probably goes over the smaller ones’ heads. Still, parents with older children were twitching.
There are some memorable songs and dance pieces, best of all from the villainous set of ‘thorns,’ a troupe of literal thorns brought to life by performers in spiky outfits. And Fairy is a decent heroine you end up willing to end up on top. She’s brought to emotional life by Lisa Lambe, in an especially gorgeous costume. There’s some brilliant weirdness here, but it doesn’t quite all add up.
Hex, National Theatre, plays until 14 January; tickets are here
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