Review: Six the Musical, The Arts Theatre. The FRANK Mag,’ May/June ed. 2019
Review of ‘Six’ – Arts Theatre, 16/4/19
Book & lyrics by Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss
Direction by Lucy Moss & Jamie Armitage
Henry the Eighth’s six wives appear ‘for one night, live’ to reclaim their stories with the sass and balls of a Nineties girl-band. And there’s nothing more satisfying than a simple concept executed well.
From the opening of Marlow and Moss’ punchy musical Prologue ‘Ex-Wives’ we know where we stand. These are characters ‘in concert’ and for that reason the show’s episodic structure makes sense, as cleverly framed by a competition – Which wife was the most hard-done-by? Each sequin-bedazzled tudor babe takes her turn in the spotlight, selling us the highs and lowest lows of her time with Henry, as the other five support with attitude. A WAGish Anne Boleyn played by Millie O’Connell sings to the jilted Catherine of Aragon ‘he doesn’t want to bang you, somebody hang you!’ during ‘Don’t Lose your Head.’ After introducing us to the electronic dance beats of ‘The House of Holbein,’ Anne of Cleves (Alexia Mcintosh) sings ‘Get Down’ in celebration of her hedonistic lifestyle in exile from Henry’s court. In a typical girl-power injected lyric she proclaims ‘I’ve got acres and acres paid for by my own riches. Where are the hounds? Release all my bitches!’ Aimee Atkinson’s Katherine Howard is portrayed as the long-suffering sex-toy of a dull, old king in the repetitive and catchy number ‘All you wanna’ do.’
It is safe to expect the infectious verses and choruses typical of nineties/noughties pop when picking up a ticket for Six. What catches you unawares are the razor-sharp lyrics fusing social-media shorthand, history and story with the impact of tabloid headlines. Henry ‘got a promotion, caused a commotion, set-in-motion the C of E.’ This combination of references serves to constantly delight and surprise. The piece is well pitched, not least because the musical era it channels will be close to the hearts of parents in a mixed family audience.
Also admirable is the tightness with which Six works as an ensemble piece. All the wives are present on-stage throughout, seamlessly weaving in and out of Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography and Moss/Armitage’s direction with flawless timing and skill. It would be inappropriate to pick out individual performances. The show has been cast for strength of characterisation as much as vocal and movement ability and because of this, delivers an evenly weighted, royal-flush. However, the likeness of Millie O’Connell’s Anne Boleyn and Aimie Atkinson’s Katherine Howard to members of a Spicy girl-band is compelling and memorable.
Beyond a clever concept and strongly realised production, the themes of sex, love and death are clearly (and sometimes touchingly) communicated in the Six’s storytelling, making an evening that cannot fail to entertain. Running at approx’ one-hour in length and featuring rehearsed encores, my only qualm was a hunger for slightly more – less encore and more storytelling, perhaps satisfying a desire to see the figure of Henry finally revealed or defamed. But this is their story ‘the history remix, switching up the floor as we add the prefix…’ Fun! 🙂 XOXO