Going by the audience response alone, new musical Six is already a massive hit. What began as a student production from writers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss has stormed the Edinburgh Fringe and looks set to do the same in London, in an extended run at the Arts Theatre, prior to a tour.
In the same way that Hamilton portrays historical events through a modern viewpoint, Six is the ‘untold story’ of the six wives of Henry VIII, but this retelling is more of a concert than a musical, with the little narrative there is woven in to the songs performed directly to the audience.
Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, the concept is that all six wives, whether divorced, beheaded, died or survived all come together to share the misery of being married to the infamous King. A competition emerges, with each Queen taking her turn to describe how she had it the worst through a song, while the other Queens provide backing vocals.
What follows is a riot of sassy sisterly support, with affirmative messages bellowed out at every available opportunity to whoops and cheers of encouragement from the audience. There’s a danger that it could all get a bit repetitive, but it doesn’t – not at all, and I’m not sure anyone would be able to really put their finger on why that is.
Perhaps it’s the score, performed by six very talented women and accompanied by an all-female band – the Ladies in Waiting, it sounds like the kind of music Radio 1 would play, and even Hamilton would struggle to achieve that. There’s an incredible blend of modern sounding pop and rock anthems, which would be more at home in an arena than a theatre, whipping the audience in to a frenzy like nothing I’ve seen before.
Jarneia Richard-Noel’s Catherine of Aragon kicks it all off with an upbeat number that leaves us in no doubt what we can expect. Natalie Paris performs Jane Seymour’s power ballad with all the skill of world class leading lady, and Aimie Atkinson’s Katherine Howard packs a deeper message that leaves us wondering how much has changed in the last 500 years.
Maybe it’s the fact that Six doesn’t take itself, or it’s ‘her-storical’ retelling too seriously, it’s almost certain that Anne Boleyn (Millie O’Connell) never said “LOL” or that Anna of Cleves (Alexia McIntosh) ever described her portrait as a “profile pic”, but it’s these little furnishings that make Six and the six wives relatable in today’s world. By the time we reach the survivor, Catherine Parr (Maiya Quansah-Breed) we’ve learnt a more valuable lesson; each of these Queens achieved something in their own right, and it shouldn’t be their marriage for which they are remembered.
As much as we might like to compare Six to other musicals, it’s not really possible, because it’s totally unique and fresh. From the genre defying staging to Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s snappy choreography, these Queens are fierce and the audience just can’t get enough, although a little less bitchiness between the Queens would help cement the concept.
I can just about remember the hysteria that engulfed the Spice Girls when their particular brand of girl-power was first unleashed on the world, and with Six it feels a bit like her-story may be about to repeat itself, because along with their band, these six women from the past have big futures ahead.