dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Henry VIII's six wives come alive in this feisty musical
Premiered by Cambridge University students at Edinburgh Fringe just three years ago, Six has become an international hit. Telling the stories of the six wives of Henry VIII from their perspective, it uses song, dance and a lot of attitude to take us behind the scenes of the famous rhyme Divorced, Beheaded, Died.
Created by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the 75-minute show, which plays Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until March 14, takes the form of a pop concert with each wife vying to become the group's lead singer. As each shares their story of life, and death, as a wife of Henry VIII we see beyond the stereotypes.
It's easy to see the roots of the show in the Fringe. With a cast of six singers and four musicians, no scene changes and minimal costume switches, it could easily have been a budget show. But now it's a touring sensation, Six has the glamour touch with space-aged costumes by Gabriella Slade and a set which can double up as a dating app or a nunnery.
Influenced by a range of pop princesses from Rihanna to Adele, these six wives are feisty, feminist and foxy. As they strut their stuff and sing their hearts out, they're like a modern-day Spice Girls - each with their own characters, their own stories and their own songs.
The cast of six, Harriet Watson (Catherine of Aragon), Maddison Bulleyment (Anne Boleyn), Lauren Byrne (Jane Seymour), Shekinah McFarlane (Anne of Cleves), Jodie Steele (Katherine Howard) and Athena Collins (Catherine Parr) give it their all, playing roles packed with attitude but with a touch of pathos.
Directed by Jamie Armitage and Lucy Moss, there's a constant pace to the production. Even when it dips into ballad the show still moves along rapidly so that it no sooner seems to have started than the six are into their final number. There's plenty of witty dialogue and memorable songs while Carrie-Anne Ingrouille's choreography slips easily back and forth between solos and ensembles.
Six the musical is not just a history lesson - the production makes frequent parallels between the fates of these 16th-century wives and women today and there is much to be learnt from the re-telling of their stories. While it's a look back into the past, the show's messages about the need for women to find their own way in life are very 21st century.
And ultimately it's a lot of fun – by the close, it's hard not to get up on your feet and join in. It's a show which will hit you for six.