More noisy than enchanting… and not a villain in sight: LIBBY PURVES reviews Hex 

More noisy than enchanting and not a villain in sight: Welcome to the National’s woke tackle Sleeping Beauty

Hex (Olivier, National Theatre, London)

Verdict: Could use a bit extra magic

Rating: *** 

The Wind In The Wilton’s (Wilton’s Music Hall, London)

Verdict: Festive enjoyable, down by the Thames

Rating: **** 

Everyone’s bought psychological well being points in Hex, which is the Sleeping Beauty story prolonged to the troublesome folk-tale aftermath, for the National Theatre’s large Christmas providing.

The tousled Fairy has no wings and low standing, whereas her snobbish sisters float overhead in light-rippling, 20ft robes.

It is panic over Princess Rose’s cradle (the place the sleep-deprived mom is yelling neurotically), which makes Fairy hex the kid into sleeping for many years after a thorn-prick at 16.

Everyone’s bought psychological well being points in Hex, which is the Sleeping Beauty story prolonged to the troublesome folk-tale aftermath

She then loses her magic (delivered in spells sounding a bit Arabic) and has to pretend it with cries of ‘sho lo lo’ as she struggles to restore the harm. As for Rose, she is a bratty teen and, after the waking, a discontented spouse.

She feels uncared for by Prince Bert and worries — it seems, not unreasonably — that her ogress mother-in-law will eat the youngsters. Very Freudian, that. Bert himself is a mummy’s boy.

Only a refrain of yobbish thorns, a spiteful previous retainer and a capering rat appear blissful. Though the rat does get eaten.

At least all these psychological issues gas large numbers, with correct Nina Simone soul.

Lisa Lambe because the Fairy (pictured above) stands out, her voice hovering from sweetness to wildness: a correct star. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, because the ogress, belts out her confusion and starvation with equal vigour and talent.

Jim Fortune’s music is not significantly memorable, however it’s atmospheric, and each ladies give it each likelihood.

Actually, everybody does: the NT’s creative director Rufus Norris directs and co-devised the present (the e-book is by his spouse Tanya Ronder), and throws the Olivier’s large resources at it,

There’s Katrina Lindsay’s beautiful design, a 12-strong orchestra, a large ensemble, aerial fairies, trapdoors, and terrific sound and lighting.

Norris additionally wrote the lyrics. Alas, he’s not a pure lyricist and the rhymes plod alongside with out a lot wit, typically virtually with a sense of desperation.

So Hex stays extra noisy than enchanting, and the youngsters close to me have been extra than transported.

It livens up with a first rate dance routine and higher jokes when Prince Bert seems, and the refrain of disenchanted princes are correctly humorous — particularly Kody Mortimer.

After the plot has creaked neatly spherical a lot of corners, everybody will get over their points and decides to honour their pure self. Nobody’s a actual villain.

On a smaller, jollier scale, down at Wilton’s Music Hall, there’s little doubt concerning the villainy of the weasels in the Wild Wood of the City.

The Wind In The Willows is up to date by Piers Torday to trendy London’s Thames. Mole’s evicted to make means for a street and Ratty picnics on the river on a recycled pallet-raft, tidying the atmosphere by consuming leftover Pret sandwiches and bits of kebab. 

The Wind In The Willows is up to date by Piers Torday to trendy London’s Thames

Badger is a magnificent previous campaigner, coated in protest badges, and Darrell Brockis’s Toad is an irresistibly hammy, old-style actor — with, after all, an e-scooter (poop poop!).

But there’s nonetheless the romance of the magical god Pan, a rescued child otter; and folky music from the cast enjoying bass, fiddle, guitar and clarinet. A cheerful present for all ages.

Is Clive’s goose cooked? Oh no it is not…

Mother Goose (Hackney Empire, London)

Rating: *** 

Sleeping Beauty (Marlow Theatre, Canterbury)

Rating: ****

Jack And The Beanstalk (Lyric Hammersmith, London)

Rating: **** 

Everybody loves a dame — significantly if that dame is performed by Clive Rowe. The large man dons frocks and false bosoms once more to play Mother Goose on the Hackney Empire in a manufacturing that celebrates the theatre’s 120-year historical past.

In Will Brenton’s script, our heroine runs a magnificence parlour however, good-hearted to a fault, refuses to just accept fee, placing her in debt to landlord Squire Purchase (Tony Marshall). Then alongside comes the Demon Queen (Rebecca Parker), who desires to tempt Mother Goose to the darkish aspect, when her BFF (Best Feathered Friend) Priscilla begins laying golden eggs; she presents her everlasting magnificence and fame… in return for her magical goose.

Everybody loves a dame — significantly if that dame is performed by Clive Rowe. The large man dons frocks and false bosoms once more to play Mother Goose on the Hackney Empire

Narratively, that is a curate’s egg somewhat than a golden one, as Mr Rowe (who additionally directs) crams in components of conventional panto and musical theatre, plus a convoluted morality story. But he’s as fabulous as ever; and Kat B, one other Empire favorite, provides nice help as Mother’s son Billy Goose.

Sleeping Beauty on the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury is a conventional panto, touched with West End stardust and but with a actual connection to the native viewers.

Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba is Prince Michael, and Carrie Hope Fletcher makes a fascinating panto debut because the baddie ‘Carrie-bosse’, and in-jokes abound in Paul Hendy’s terrific script.

Sleeping Beauty on the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury is a conventional panto, touched with West End stardust

Stealing each scene he’s in is native favorite Ben Roddy as Nurse Nellie, whereas extra comedy is offered by Max Fulham as Jangles (along with his monkey puppet Gordon) and Jennie Dale’s immediately likeable Fairy Moonbeam.

If you favor your panto with a aspect order of social conscience, then Jack And The Beanstalk at Lyric Hammersmith ought to fulfill. The evil large is unfairly taxing the locals (boo, hiss); whereas Mrs Woolley, the Sheep, is (the programme notes inform us) made fully of recycled supplies.

It’s a virtuous story all spherical, as Jack (Leah St Luce) desires to take the glory of reducing the enormous all the way down to measurement and then steal the golden riches in his lair, however his ethical compass is offered by finest pal Jill (Maddison Bulleyment).

If you favor your panto with a aspect order of social conscience, then Jack And The Beanstalk at Lyric Hammersmith ought to fulfill

There are plenty of good strains in Jude Christian and Sonia Jalaly’s glowing script, and whereas the present is extra song-and-dance than conventional panto, Nicholai La Barrie’s manufacturing is not any much less gratifying for that.

Mother Goose runs till December 31 (hackneyempire.co.uk); Sleeping Beauty till January 8 (marlowetheatre.com) and Jack And The Beanstalk till January 7 (lyric.co.uk).

VERONICA LEE

 
We’re again at college… hooray!

Nativity! The Musical (Birmingham Rep)  

Verdict: Class favorite

Rating: ****

Debbie Isitt’s 2009 movie Nativity! — and its sequels — are based mostly on her fond reminiscences of showing in college nativity performs as a little one rising up in Coventry. She tailored the film for the stage in 2017, and now this spirited musical revival, which she directs, lands at Birmingham Rep — and it’s a delight.

Mrs Bevan (Jemma Churchill), headteacher of the failing St Bernadette’s main college, duties Mr Maddens (Billy Roberts) with staging their Christmas play. But he’s lovesick for his ex, Jennifer, who moved to Los Angeles 5 years earlier than; whereas his rival from Oakmoor, the luxurious prep college close by, is his former pal Mr Shakespeare (Matthew Rowland, relishing the ‘baddie’ function).

To high all of it, he’s been landed with the keen however annoying classroom assistant — Mr Poppy — to ‘help’.

Debbie Isitt’s 2009 movie Nativity! are based mostly on her fond reminiscences of showing in college nativity performs as a little one rising up in Coventry. She tailored the film for the stage in 2017, and now this spirited musical revival, which she directs, lands at Birmingham Rep

Determined to outdo Mr Shakespeare, Mr Maddens tells a white lie about ‘an LA producer’ — Jennifer (Daisy Steere) — coming to see the present . . . and it snowballs.

Mr Poppy (the amiable Ben Lancaster) devises a spectacle worthy of Hollywood, whereas the native mayor presents using the ruins of Coventry Cathedral — properly realised in David Woodhead’s vibrant design.

The witty script (with some topical gags thrown in) takes the viewers on an emotional journey, and Debbie Isitt’s songs (co-composed with Nicky Ager) maintain issues bouncing alongside properly, as we attain the incredible show-within-a-show finale, when the lovers are reunited.

The youngsters, so integral to the manufacturing, are bursting with expertise — and even cuter than Mr Madden’s canine. 

Until January 7 (birmingham-rep.co.uk).

V.L.

Here’s one Christmas strike you would possibly truly get pleasure from

By Georgina Brown

Newsies (Troubadour Theatre, Wembley Park, London)

Verdict: Extra! Extra! Read all about it

Rating: ****

The Nutcracker (Bristol Old Vic) 

Verdict: Dark magic

Rating: **** 

Newsies started life 30 years in the past as a Disney film, starring Christian Bale, which flopped earlier than bouncing again as a cult favorite.

Reborn as a musical in 2012 on Broadway, it dazzled and received awards. And it’s doing it once more, over right here, having lastly discovered the space it wants in Wembley’s whopping Troubadour Theatre.

Oliver! meets The Front Page (with a little bit of Annie and Les Mis thrown in) in Harvey Fierstein’s tackle the ‘true’ story of the newsies’ strike in 1899.

Led by the charismatic Jake Kelly (mighty Michael Ahomka-Lindsay), the efforts of a rabble of dirt-poor road urchin newspaper distributors to tackle a glossy and grasping print mogul turn into one thing to sing and dance about, if in a considerably formulaic style. The plot is predictable, the characters sketchy — however the dynamism proves irresistible.

Jake is championed by Crutchie (Matthew Duckett), lame in nature and title however super-powered in spirit, in addition to a couple of fearless liberal-minded ladies: Moya Angela’s show-stopping madam Medda; and Bronté Barbé’s sweet-voiced reporter Katherine.

Newsies started life 30 years in the past as a Disney film, starring Christian Bale, which flopped earlier than bouncing again as a cult favorite. Reborn as a musical in 2012 on Broadway, it dazzled and received awards

Director and choreographer Matt Cole makes use of the space fantastically, with the viewers on three sides of the stage.

An astonishing ensemble of acrobatic, balletic, cartwheeling, backflipping, spring-loaded newsies — boys and a few women, their faces aglow with defiance and willpower — thunder up and down gangways, tap-dance on tiny tables and swing and swirl on industrial lamps in the printing works.

Ahomka-Lindsay’s eager for peace away from the imply streets of Manhattan flows in the dreamy sax quantity Santa Fe, however too a lot of Alan Menken’s songs sound samey, and the Disney-style Nu-Yoick accents and dismal diction make Jake Feldman’s lyrics arduous to decipher. 

I caught Now Is The Time To Seize The Day, One For All And All For One and Now I Have Something To Believe In. But subtler stuff was drowned by the blasting volumes.

Never thoughts. This beautiful, successful dance present has its nice large coronary heart — in addition to its fabulous toes — in all the appropriate locations.

As does The Nutcracker, Tom Morris’s log off on the finish of 12 outstanding years on the creative helm of Bristol Old Vic. His musical retelling has his hallmarks throughout it: healthful classes about empathy wrapped up in daring, joyous theatricality.

The Nutcracker, Tom Morris’s log off on the finish of 12 outstanding years on the creative helm of Bristol Old Vic

It’s Christmas Eve. No one notices when an eccentric clock-mender (beguiling Tristan Sturrock) arrives bearing presents and spinning fabulous notions — in tune — concerning the wheels of time being ‘the music of everything’ and the cogs of your thoughts ‘dancing the day into night’.

He provides dreamy Claire (Mae Munuo) a nutcracker doll. When making an attempt to place him on the high of the Christmas tree, Claire falls and hits her head. The relaxation is the stuff of her desires . . . and nightmares.

Rejected toys are reborn as a rock band. Queen Mouse (Gwyneth Herbert, additionally composer and lyricist) and her seven-headed mouse-child are sharpening their gnashers. As Nutcracker, Denzel Baidoo’s lovely slow-mo breakdancing bewit-ches an entranced Curly Pearly (Guy Hughes) into changing into a star saxophonist. It issues not a jot that the narrative baffles in Lee Lyford’s pacey manufacturing. That’s dream logic for you. And the transporting energy of theatre, Morris-style.

It’s Henry V – with a contact of Hamlet

Henry V (Wanamaker Theatre, London)

Verdict: A crowning achievement

Rating: ****  

Once extra unto the breach, pricey associates. Except that is not Shakespeare’s Henry V because the gloriously patriotic, triumphalist rallying cry we have now come to know and love from Laurence Olivier’s 1944 movie and William Walton’s stirring rating (delivered on Churchill’s orders as a WWII morale-booster).

Instead, dramaturg Cordelia Lynn has lower the refrain that coats the play in a nationalistic gloss and reinstated Henry’s chilling menace to the residents of Harfleur to unleash his troops to rape and pillage, and kill all prisoners taken at Agincourt.

Underscored by plaintive strings, the result’s a sombre portrayal of the tragedies in addition to the triumphs of struggle, its victims and its victors.

Henry V: Dramaturg Cordelia Lynn has reinstated Henry’s chilling menace to the residents of Harfleur to unleash his troops to rape and pillage, and kill all prisoners taken at Agincourt

Above all, it emerges as a timeless examine of kingship. And as the brand new monarch is welcomed with a burst of ‘God save our gracious King’, one thing we’re all nonetheless adjusting to, this play appears all of the extra related.

Oliver Johnstone’s spectacular Henry is not any glamorised, flashy figurehead. His ‘unto the breach’ speech which galvanised the soldiers in the film, is right here a soliloquy in which a fearful younger man, racked with Hamlet-like self-doubt, prays aloud that he’ll present ‘the mettle of your pasture, let us swear that you are worth your breeding’.

There’s a powerful economic system and focus in Holly Race Roughan’s pared-down, prop-less manufacturing.

Dozens of characters — certainly all however the king — are performed by a cast of 9, in play-clothes and on a naked stage, as if in a rehearsal room, backed by inexperienced ruched curtains.

A programme states that the design interrogates ‘narratives of English national identity and the climate of empire’. It doesn’t. Mercifully the terrible curtains rise to disclose a wall of blurry previous mirrors, all of the lovelier for the mirrored candlelight. A potent various to theatrical tinsel.

GEORGINA BROWN

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