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Hex Review | London Theatre

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This is not your average Sleeping Beauty. Part avant-garde fairytale, part children’s bedtime nightmare, Hex continually pricks its finger on a thorn to get wilder and weirder with every passing moment.The spin on the classic tale follows the traditional structure of a young princess who is cursed, or in this case “hexed,” to sleep when she pricks her finger on her 16th birthday until a prince comes to kiss her. But Rufus Norris and Katrina Lindsay’s creepy concept pivots the focal point to the Fairy, named just that here, who does the hexing, and explores the mysterious world surrounding the kingdom.That Fairy, played with a folksy and ethereal quality by Lisa Lambe, is a “low fairy,” i.e. one without wings. She’s deeply insecure about what she lacks, longing for beauty and flight like her counterparts, who descend from the rafters as if floating like jelly fish in Lindsay’s enchanting set and costume design.When the Queen’s secretary ventures into the forest searching for a fairy to produce a blessing for the new baby, he discovers Fairy and also an ogre hungry for humans. Fairy saves secretary Smith (Michael Matus) from becoming the creature’s dinner, and he, in turn, invites her to the palace to bless baby Rose.However, when she arrives, her insecurities are brought to light, as the royals chastise her lack of wings and doubt her magical abilities, and in a moment of weakness, Fairy hexes the baby, cursing her to sleep at 16 as the story goes.But a hex is essentially the opposite of a blessing, and when a fairy produces a hex, they immediately lose all magic. So now, not only is the princess cursed to sleep in a palace surrounded by enchanted thorns who put any approaching person to sleep, but Fairy feels powerless to undo the evil she has done.Hex builds a chaotic imaginary world, and the immersive nature of this tragic, horrific universe spins throughout the musical. There were young children dressed in princess costumes peppered throughout the theatre, but this is not a show designed for kids.The cast is universally excellent, with Rosie Graham taking Rose on the journey from bright-eyed naivete to sudden loss of innocence and Michael Elcock embodying his character’s moniker as the winning prince Bert.The standout is undeniably Victoria Hamilton-Barritt who has been making a welcome habit of playing sympathetic fairytale villainesses. She’s traded her Evil Stepmother eyebrows (in her Olivier-nominated performance in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella) for a different variety as an even more strange and dynamic creature Queenie. Without giving anything away, as her character is somewhat of a spoiler, Hamilton-Barritt takes the musical to alarming new heights in the second act as she, quite literally, chews up all the scenery in the most delicious fashion.There are some gaps in Norris and Lindsay’s concept and moments when the show quickly pivots from comedy to tragedy and back again. While Jim Fortune’s music (with lyrics by Norris) creates a moody atmosphere, some of the songs struggle to propel the narrative and the lyrics are routinely rote. Tanya Ronder’s book comes across as more of an amalgamation of short stories, each with a different objective, tied together by standalone songs.For any fantasy and fairytale lovers, Hex is a welcome twist on the genre, giving us all permission to create worlds within our imaginations and find solace and sympathy in the most unexpected of places. There’s more to everyone than meets the eye, and embracing authenticity and individuality is the key to happiness.Hex is running at the National Theatre until January 14. Book Hex tickets on London Theatre today.Photo credit: Lisa Lambe (Fairy) and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (Queenie) in Hex at the National Theatre. (Photo by Johan Persson)

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties – Church Times

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties  Church Times

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The dwindling case for living in London

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The recent debate around ‘levelling up’ may be missing something. I would argue that there is another way to consider geographical inequality – and, by this alternative measure, a levelling has been under way for more than 20 years.

I’ve spent three decades working in advertising, so it’s unsurprising that I tend to view economic life through the lens of consumption. By contrast, mainstream economists tend to view disparities through the medium of earnings or wealth. To me, measures of wealth should include not only the quantity of money you have but the breadth of worthwhile options available in choosing how to spend it.

Let’s put it another way. If you live in a boring village, and suddenly a great pub or café opens on the high street, then by my measure you have become richer; by the economist’s measure you have not.

Things that would once have been available in London decades before the provinces now appear everywhereat once 

There was undoubtedly a time when you were richer in London in two ways. You had more money, but you also had a far more exciting range of ways to spend it. Now not so much.

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London is a great city but, in terms of consumption quality, it has not improved markedly in the past 20 years. Over the same period, many smaller cities and even towns have advanced rapidly, significantly narrowing the gap. The kind of things that would once have been available in the capital decades before making it to the provinces – like sushi – now appear everywhere at once. Consider Turkish barbers, who seem to have taken over the country in only five years. (I can remember a time when it was enough just to get a haircut without having burning methylated spirits flicked in my ears. Back then I just didn’t know any better.)

This levelling is especially true of anything in the digital world: Amazon gadgets, Netflix films, Asos fashions and PlayStation games hit Aberystwyth the same day they hit Islington. But it also applies to the physical environment, as anyone over 50 can attest. I went to Manchester and Sheffield for the first time in 1989. Compared with London, they were then, let’s be honest, utterly rubbish. Now, when I visit those same cities, I experience mild ‘northern envy’. There are interesting places open everywhere. Northerners have better cars, because they have more money left over after paying for housing. And they are much better-looking, because they can nip home to get changed before going out.

Relatively speaking, London has improved far less dramatically than these provincial cities have. (New York, many aficionados argue, has got worse.) OK, the Tube is better than it used to be. Uber is a handy addition. But some things are awful – the last pleasure of driving in London ended when they put speed cameras on the Westway. Accommodation costs for the young wipe out any salary gains.

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By my measure, high property prices won’t just hit Londoners once – they’ll hit them twice. Not only do high rents wipe out what you earn, they also put at risk London’s once unassailable advantage as a great place to spend what money you have left. Creative businesses of any kind require space at a price which allows them to take risks. For a time, London found this space by moving its heartland from west to east. But suppose the people supporting what Douglas McWilliams calls ‘the flat white economy’ flee altogether? In my own experience, Kent suddenly seems weirdly full of fascinating restaurants founded by London exiles. If more of these people leave, the case for staying weakens further.

Londoners always say things like ‘Yes but there’s the theatre’. Let’s face it though – even Shakespeare left London for Stratford in his mid-forties. As he no doubt found, the theatre is all very well, but it’s nothing like being able to park outside your house.

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Gentrification is not a sin

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Gentrification is not a sin – UnHerd

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