Writer: Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
Director: Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage
Reviewer: Frances Scott
The chopped and changed wives of Henry VIII have moved heaven and earth to tell their side of the story. Overshadowed by their husband’s reign, these queens have taken over the Quays theatre to upgrade the audiences limited knowledge of their lives. Assuming that you only know them from the rhyme Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived, their infectious new nine-part album is sure to update your schooling.
The 75-minute pop concert places the six queens in competition, battling each other for the bragging rights over whose life was worse with Henry. There’s no love lost between these queens and their ex as the women ditch all-consuming love songs for defiant pop tracks and power ballads that capture their strengths and reveal their hidden contributions to history.
Taking away the romanticised image of queendom, writers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have created a medley of songs that channel the Six’sreal backstories through pop, dance and hip-hop styles. With informative solos that range from tragically funny to simply tragic, each queen is given time to unpack their story as the remaining five support her as her backing dancers.
This unmissable British musical delivers a show bursting with a uniquely youthful and historical appeal, adding a diverse cast and a variety of pop tracks that could easily be performed by the likes of Little Mix. Through the songs Don’t Lose Your Head, Get DownandI Don’t Need Your Love, the girls calve out a contemporary and fantastical vision of their lives made for the smartphone generation. Channelling their frustrations through the music, the songs help shift our perceptions of the queens through factual and smart storytelling that rework Tudor terms and layer the show with humour.
Apparently,not all the queens were dealt a bad hand, and discovering the story behind Anna of Cleves (played by Alexia McIntosh) will make you wish you could press replay on history. Thankfully, the Six album is available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music for all to enjoy. However, it will lack the energy radiating from these colourful characters and skilled musicians on stage.
Alongside the four-piece all-female band, the deliberately defiant and daring cast have crafted a show that recognises a lack of strong musical roles for women in theatre while refreshingly writing themselves into history. The rebellious, girl-power message comes complete with custom-made bedazzled outfits that sparkle from crown to corset. Costume designer Gabriella Slade helps the ladies pack an extra punch by setting the queens apart with their own signature style and personal Power Ranger colour.
The avant-garde Tudor fashions are placed against simple designs, using LED lighting to form a church backdrop and single spotlights to pull focus on the women alone. With effortless dance numbers that keep the ensemble on their heels throughout their performance, the crafting of Six stands on the theme of women’s empowerment without compromising entertainment for an overload of information.
Runs until 16 December 2018 | Image: Idil Sukan