Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Crowning Glory For Musical On Wives Of Henry VIII
Six is the hottest new musical around with award nominations, sellout shows and success abroad since its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but does it live up to the hype? We found out on its first UK tour.
Don't mess with these queens
We've got riffs for your ruffs, warn the six wives of Henry VIII as they appear like a girl band to modernise this story of the fated British queens for a #MeToo generation.
Six is one of those theatre success stories everyone in the industry dreams about. Emerging at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017 by Cambridge University students Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, it got rave reviews that helped catapult it to success in the West End and abroad, including tours in the US and Australia. Even Andrew Lloyd Webber was talking animatedly about it at his recent appearance at Cheltenham Literary Festival.
Now Six is on its first UK tour and stopped off at Malvern Theatres, where it stays until November 3. It tours nationwide but will be back again in the Midlands at Birmingham Hippodrome and Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. Find out when here.
Six is set up as a concert - the chance to see "Divorced, Beheaded Live" as Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr appear as a girl band akin to the Spice Girls with live musicians behind them.
They welcome the theatre like a rock gig screaming "hello Malvern, remember us from your GCSEs". It's that kind of humour that is weaved throughout and the beauty of this show is just how funny it is.
Mad at times with plenty of sass, this fierce musical is always inventive and has struck a chord with younger audiences in particular.
Translating the story into modern times, the women moan about their "ex" like a bunch of footballers wives, while Anne Of Cleves, who was selected by Henry from a portrait painting, becomes his wife in a clever scene like she is on Tinder.
What Six does is tell history as her-story, subtly making you realise the abuse these women went through at the King's hands and they aren't just a rhyme of divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.
While it's mainly hilarious and saucy, making you laugh out loud, there are moments of sadness too as you put in perspective the plight of the Tudor woman.
It starts as a competition to be the leader of the band with each Queen doing a solo to find out who had the most BS, as they put it, from Henry, but turns into a message of female empowerment and solidarity.
The cast is superb as they each take the mic with a different music style. Lauren Drew is a sulky Catherine Of Aragon who has a lovely rivalry with the woman who stole her man, Anne Boleyn. Maddison Bulleyment is fantastically dry as Anne and her song makes the Queen seem more like Lily Allen as she sings "sorry not sorry" and retorts a double entendre about how he must have really liked her head.
Lauren Byrne is the romantic Jane Seymour who didn't get to see her child grow up and sings a love ballad. In sharp comparison, Shekinah McFarkale gives Anna of Cleves a Missy Elliot makeover.
Katherine Howard's solo hits the hardest as a heavily sexualised band member who has been groomed by men all her life. Powerful stuff from actress Jodie Steele in her catchy pop ditty that turns from light and fluffy to dark quite quickly.
Finally, there's the soulful tune of Athena Collins as survivor Catherine Parr, who had to give up her sweetheart because the King liked her.
This is a chance for these women to rise out of the shadows and be in charge of their own story rather than part of his and you can't help but wish that history lessons had all been like this.
As the thoughtful lyrics to the finale go, "Too many years lost in his story, we're free to take our crowning glory" - and a crown is what this superb show deserves.
This is the must-see show of the year. Don't miss it.