DIVORCED, BEHEADED, DIED, DIVORCED, BEHEADED, SURVIVED – who would have thought that a musical about the sextet this mnemonic inspired, would end up taking the UK musical theatre scene by storm?
Written in ten working days over a period of six months, Six creators Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss had no formal musical theatre training. It started life at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, performed by the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society and such has its impact been that it has had a second run at the Fringe, a West End run, a UK tour and an up-coming second stint in London.
Inevitable comparisons will be made with theatrical juggernaut Hamilton which also mixes 21st century music with historical subject material. However, Six manages to plough its own original and irresistible furrow. Staged like a mash-up between a stadium concert and a musical, it blends spot-on humour and history with a refreshing dose of self-awareness. Each Queen gets her chance to stand centre stage and state her case in an X-Factor style competition to see who had it worse at the hands of the infamous King. These women are here to kick ass and tell all. This they do in an array of musical genres: pop; rock ballad; R&B; electro euro-pop (the hysterical Kraut-rock/House mash up Haus of Holbein) and soul.
Each of these six women playing these six queens is phenomenally talented and all shine – equally, a rare and wonderful thing to see on stage, and are backed by the fine sounding, all-woman band, The Ladies in Waiting.
Jarneia Richard-Noel (Catherine of Aragon) starts the ball rolling with the sassy No Way followed by Millie O’Connell’s hysterical Anne Boleyn delivering the Lily Allen-ish Don’t Lose Your Head with the lyrics: “I tried to elope but the Pope said ‘nope'” and “everybody chill, it’s totes God’s will”. Natalie Paris (Jane Seymour) tugs at the heart-strings in the power ballad Heart of Stone. Alexia McIntosh (Anne of Cleeves) gives us the Rhianna-like Get Down and brings the house down with her “I’m the Queen of the castle, get down you dirty rascals” when ‘exiled’ to a life of luxury and independence after her divorce from Henry. Aimie Atkinson is a natural born comic throughout but when she delivers Katherine Howard’s All You Wanna Do, the lyrics make you question (in light of the #MeToo movement) has anything really changed for women in the past 500 years? And sheds new perspective on how she has been remembered in history. Maiya Quansah-Breed brings the women’s stories to an end absolutely beautifully with Catherine Parr’s torch song I Don’t Need Your Love. Each of these woman has is an utter power-house of a vocalist and would tear up any stage they appeared on. That said, the songs they are asked to deliver are pitch perfect and an utter joy to listen to.
Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography is sharp and original and perfectly executed by the cast. Gabriella Slade’s costume design is Ariana Grande does Tudor and it works fabulously as does Emma Bailey’s simplistic but effective set design and Tim Deiling’s rich lighting.
The face-off between the women is definitely a twisted sisterhood, they each fling the other’s sob story back in their faces, but this show of fierce womanhood is utterly irresistible. The dawning realisation by each woman that they only claim their place in history because of the man they married, reduced to: “just one word in a stupid rhyme” is actually heart-breaking. Thankfully they get “five more minutes” to set the record straight and send the audience to the street on an absolute high.
The succinct story telling packs a punch and the compact 75 minute running time is audience friendly. Marlow and Moss prove again that HISTORY + MUSICAL THEATRE = HIT. They have successfully distilled 500 year-old history into a perfect piece of entertainment for the 21st Century. SIX is one of the best things this reviewer has seen all year. Get a ticket while you can, you won’t regret it.
Runs until 30 December 2018 – TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE