Did GCSE History teach you how sassy and irresistible Henry VIII’s wives were? Didn’t think so. Brand new British musical SIX has achieved what every new theatre show could hope for; a fresh, buzzing production that’s the insatiable talk of the town.
After taking over the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, SIX has firmly landed a place in the West End (Arts Theatre) and rightfully so. The excitement for young writers Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow must be unimaginable as they wait in anticipation for a potential flurry of Olivier Awards to come their way on the 7th April.
SIX is like Horrible Histories meets Ariana Grande’s slick, hot pop – Herstory for the woke generation. Running at a short but sweet 75 minutes, this reimagining of the tragic tales of Henry VIII’s six wives is firmly dedicated to the selfie loving, fourth-wave feminist, Netflix generation.
We meet the company of six in the opening number ‘Ex–Wives’, punchy and full of attitude they introduce themselves with the vigour of modern day pop icons. Jarneia Richard– Noel is outstanding as Catherine of Aragon, first to be divorced by the imperious King and has a powerful command over her solo ‘No Way.’ So too does Alexia McIntosh, whose Anna of Cleves is full of character, confidence and hip grinding realness in ‘Get Down.’ But alas, divorce soon meets Ms Cleves as Henry finds she looks nothing like her profile picture. Moss and Marlow have really made this show dazzle with their inventively unorthodox approach to history.
There’s no solid narrative structure, it’s more of a concert performed by history’s ultimate girl group. This is most noticeable in the clunky transition into Jane Seymour’s (Natalie Paris) Adele-esque ballad ‘Heart of Stone.’ The script doesn’t allow the mood to gradually fall for Jane’s dying from postnatal complications plot line to own the gravitas it needs.
However, moments of great humour are sprinkled throughout- the girls describe the band as their ‘Ladies in Waiting’ with ‘beats so sick they’ll give you gout.’ Anne Boleyn’s (Millie O’Connell) ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head’ is full of ironic charm and the girls certainly pump up the camp factor for the ensemble number ‘Haus of Holbein.’ The entire nine song soundtrack is definitely worth a listen to on Spotify.
Like any girl group there’s plenty of bitching, cat fights and competing for high notes, but good old girl power prevails in the end. As the girls battle it out to win the title of ‘most tragic life story’ the penny finally drops. These six women can tell their truth, strongly and independently away from the shadow of callous King Henry – something they’ve been waiting to do for over 500 years!
Though the history might be old, these Queen’s message is very current. For too long, men have been controlling the narratives of women and it’s time to take it out of their hands. Think you know the Tudors well think again! 4/5
Review written by Niall Hunt.
Six the Musical is currently showing at the Arts Theatre until Sunday 5th January 2020. To find out more about the production, visit here…