Writers: Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss
Directors: Lucy Moss & Jamie Armitage
Last week we celebrated International Women’s Day. A minor, though no less significant slice, of the appreciation, adoration and respect millions across the globe deserve. And yet, looking back into Her-Story, there’s a pantheon of stories left behind in the shadows of more notorious men. As we steadily (and slowly) find common ground against the archaic norms of the patriarchal past precedent, the stories of these women unearth and step into the spotlight. Now, offering a voice to the past, Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow’s Six is precisely the show to lose your head over.
For the two or three of those not within The Queendom – Six finds the wives of Henry VIII rise from the ashes of history to compete in a concert styled contest to share their stories, with the most miserable, punished and suffering Queen deemed the winner, and leader of the band. And what a band; the Ladies in Waiting, true to form, our Queens would be lost without them. With Musical Director Jenny Deacon also on the Kays, Vanessa Dominique, Laura Browne and Kat Bax on the drums, guitar and bass respectively.
But there’s more to the pair’s narrative than contention, as steadily each Queen performs their set – the grander issues unfold before us. That even in this madness, a stage full of women, competing for who has suffered the most at the hands of the King, still live under his shadow as long as these petty squabbles continue, and their stories remain buried.
There’s an ever-evolving presence, where now a steadier flow of humour and performance incorporates itself through the narrative. Initially strikingly fixated in the concert format, Six, for those who have followed the show, integrally remains much the same, but with praise and critical reception comes a little extra bling. And for as mesmerising and technical as Emma Bailey and Tim Deiling’s set and lighting design is, neither this nor Moss and Jamie Armitage’s direction never forgets the foundations of the production – and instead builds upon them.
And perhaps this is nowhere more evident than the production’s runaway playful character of Anne Boleyn. The temptress, the seducer, the witch, the northerner. Jennifer Caldwell takes the firm-fan favourite by the space buns and infuses a broad sense of identity through her use of space and delivery – briefly turning this musical into a roast battle. Becoming the ultimate frenemy with Henry’s first wife, and overlap with Anne, the charming and sensational powerhouse of vocals Chlöe Hart as Catherine of Aragon.
Every Queen makes the ideal counterpart and complement to the another. From more modest and humbler Catherine Parr (Alana M Robinson) and Jane Seymour (Casey Al-Shaqsy) to the fiery, peppery, and relatable for many women in the audience – Jaina Brock-Patel as Katherine Howard. They lay the foundations for their ‘lesser-known parts in history to set up stand-put numbers, Heart of Stone, and All You Wanna Do, the latter a hard-hitting set which has always stood as the production sleeper hit with its melody, lyrics and Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s clever choreography.
But there’s room for one last Queen. Perfectly pitched with the bombastic boss energy Aiesha Naomi Pease projects into the Festival Theatre – captivating the room, fans and newcomers to the court alike. Her solo number Get Down, and the previous Haus of Holbein are the prime example of the now famously celebrated costumes of Gabriella Slade, from ruffs and chains to those oh so crippling corsets.
From Fringe rooms to the Westend, Cruise liners, Broadway, and the World – SIX is an astonishing piece of self-representation, a humble experience to share the tales of these instrumental women which has snowballed into one of the musical theatre’s juggernauts which not only succeeds in transferring its message, but has shocked the industry with its sensational, addictive, and clever soundscape.
Runs until 26 March 2022 | Image: Pamela Raith