Six – Birmingham Hippodrome

Reviewer: John Kennedy

Writers: Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss

Directors: Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage

Unsaddle the horses, circle the wagons – the ingenue upstart dames with no shame – Six – are about to hold the Hippodrome audience hostage and there’s no negotiation- surrender’s the only option: It’s girls-all-together dangerous – outrageously and contagiously ‘selfie’-assured. Henry’s having a ruck with the Vatican? – ‘Like They won’t try that again,’is the rhyming riposte.You get the drift. Likewise, the Dance/Tranz ultra-violet drenched Hans Holbein portrait of Anne of Cleves scene: a matter of ‘product enhancement’ apparently. When Henry eventually met his: ‘Fat, Flanders mare,’ Holbein’s stock took a serious nose-dive. Anne, resignedly, laid back and let Henry – you get the drift.

‘Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived – But just for you tonight – We’re divorced, beheaded, LIVE! Welcome to the Histor-remix.’And the‘Ladies-in-Waiting’four-piece band? Currently sub-contracted from ‘Hades – We have The Best Tunes – Ever!’ monumentally groove under the Keys and Musical Direction of uber-move-maestro, Sarah Burrell.

Horrible Histories meets Horrible Henry’s wannabe ‘Axeman In Their Eyes’ widows meets Cabaret on steroids? Possibly. Time-travelling Tudor Avatars, Six Queens on a Throne-Rage, burlesque and blitzing through minx n’ mince, motor-mouth melodies in a predatory vixen vortex of song and dance hipsway sass? Most certainly.

Initial sanity suggests the plot conceit is on a par (behave!) with Alan Partridge’s Monkey Tennis pitch. Writers, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss put their reputations on the block for this conceptual show and could’ve come a real cropper from Henry’s chopper. But kitsch n’ tell sexy Sixproves its pedigree promise with near nationwide sell-out venues.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII (radical reformer of corrupt Catholic Church/patron of English Renaissance or, as Jo Brand once had it, syphilitic, misogynist, serial-killer) have reached the resurrection song-battle finals after competing in the controversial qualifying rounds of ‘Changing Wombs’. It’s a Royal Knockout battle-ballad tale of marital woo and woe to establish who’s going to finally front the band.

Who do we want, do we really, really wanna want to win? (Three will be voted out – two will be axed – doh!). The Spice Girls references are so obvious as to be impertinently passé.Dames on Throne, Dragon style.

Transforming intro/retro Queen’s Speech into street-savvy spectacular vernacular, each Queen in turn gets to sing her life story. There’s barbed-wire alt.Barbie banter, slander and varnished talons at ten paces as each, in turn, fulminates on her fertility-value stock Futures, marital mayhem, being beauty-assayed, cheated-on, dumped and/or ultimately murdered.

Anachronistic, cat-fight bomb-mots explode with shrapnel-sliced insincerity, quip, pithy tighter than Cersei Lannister’s grip on a wine-glass. Pop ’n Rock Glam smoulders withGreensleeves turned up to eleven. Nevertheless, themes of identity validation, feminism and domestic violence underscore the narrative and while Anne Boleyn has become a pan-media product placement, six-time lucky ‘survivor,’ Catherine Parr calls-out as an accomplished intellect, author of religious texts and one not averse to some skirt-raising scandal at Court herself.

A perma-frost, bubble-wrapped polar bear’s pecker in Mr. Frostie’s North Pole fridge couldn’t ever be cooler than these femmes fatale holding fortune hostage. Taking no prisoners it’s not so much sang-froid as nuclear Oh La La! Put your hands out for Excess In All Areas – Six of the best.

Runs until 18 September 2021 and touring

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Pop ’n Rock Glam smoulder.

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