Writers: Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss
Directors: Lucy Moss & Jamie Armitage
Reviewer: Tom Finch
Every now and then a show comes along that is so well put together, so engaging and so hugely enjoyable that five stars doesn’t quite seem enough. If only there was the option to award six stars. Six – The Musical which burst into the Arts Theatre is one such show.
Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six sees the now ex-wives of Henry VIII form a girl band and perform a concert which allows them to tell their side of the now familiar story just about anyone who took a history class in the UK will be aware of.
The show begins with the six women taking to the stage and welcoming the audience to the “histo-re-mix” mocking the idea that they can each be summed up by one word (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived) and instead give us glimpses of fully realised, complicated characters.
Each queen takes a solo where they try to convince the audience, and each other, that they had the hardest luck. Indeed it’s hard to feel envious for any of them, although Anne of Cleeves (played with real vigour by the superb Alexa McIntosh) is certainly pleased with how she made the best of a bad situation.
The cast really are on top form here. The fact that a show comprised entirely of a diverse range of women seems refreshing in 2018 is a solid reminder of how little has changed in the 400 years since those axes swung and how far there is to go. In fact, one of the best moments comes as Aimie Atkinson’s Katherine Howard sings a great song that begins with celebrating her beauty and sexual prowess but ends as a chilling indictment of the culture that led to the Me Too movement.
The rest of the cast, Jarneia Richard-Noel (Catherine of Aragon); Millie O’Connell (Anne Boleyn); Natalie Paris (Jane Seymour) and Maiya Quansah-Breed (Catherine Parr) each bring a searing vitality to their roles which perfectly coalesce into a stirring and entirely appropriate conclusion.
Marlow and Moss’s music and lyrics are as exciting as any new score of this decade. With a wide range of modern pop influences, the tunes will stay in your head for days. Lyrically the duo give Sondheim and Lin Manuel Miranda a run for their money. In fact, as modern interpretations of historical dramas go, there’s case to make for this show being more enjoyable than the musical behemoth Hamilton.
There really aren’t enough superlatives for this show. It’s edgy, modern and more than needed in a theatre landscape that for too long has been dominated by old school. This musical about dead women from the 1500s firmly belongs in the 21st-Century. Buy yourself a ticket, go along and be prepared to be blown away.
Runs until 14 October 2018 | Image: Idil Sukan