Arts Theatre, London – until 14 October
I like to tell people about the first time I saw The Play That Goes Wrong – in a room above a pub, where the cast outnumbered the audience. It’s since gone on to become an award winning global success. And I truly believe that SIX is destined to go the same way.
When I first saw SIX, in a tiny room at the Apex Hotel it was performed by members of Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society. Now it’s got a new cast of professional singers, a fabulous backing band, wonderful costumes (Gabriella Slade), and excellent staging – Emma Bailey’s Set, Paul Gatehouse’s Sound and Tim Deiling’s Lighting.
Created by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow, SIX delivers a completely unforgettable history lesson taking the well known rhyme “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” but with a twist – it’s now “Divorced … Beheaded … Live” telling the story of the unfortunate wives of Henry VIII, reformed as a girl group, embarking on a world tour. The wives get to step into the limelight, to tell their stories so that the audience can vote for the wife that has suffered the most to become the lead singer of the group.
It’s a full on show, with a mix of electro pop, beat, hip hop, rap and up-tempo girl band classics. But this lot can change the mood and the tempo too, as one or two numbers placed adroitly mid-show demonstrated, giving the audience a bit of time to reflect, as well as slowing things down. Catherine of Aragon (Jarneia Richard-Noel) laments how she was brought to England as a teen to marry Henry’s brother Arthur, having been betrothed to him at the age of three. And with a lack of a son, Henry looked elsewhere and threatened to send Catherine to a convent. Anne Boleyn (Millie O’Connell) gave us the very upbeat “Don’t Lose Your Head”, all pop beat and text speak and very funny
Jane Seymore (Natalie Paris) gives a power ballad about how she will never see her son grow up after her unfortunate death. This followed by the totally bonkers, German techno beat “Haus of Holbein”. Anne of Cleeves (Alexia Mcintosh) revels with her song “King of the Castle” as she brags about how good her life is now she is divorced.
Catherine Howard (Aimie Atkinson) puts her sad life in to perspective, reminding us just how young she was. But Catherine Parr (Maiya Quansah-Breed) shows how impossible it was for any of the wives to say no to Henry – a King who got what he wanted to the detriment of the poor women he married
This is the ultimate in girl power with a thoroughly deserved standing ovation at the end. The lyrics are catchy and I’m still humming along to the show now. I desperately hope there is a soundtrack CD to accompany the production because I would be playing it all the time. This is a musical that unlike the poor wives, deserves a very long life and I feel sure that it will get just that.