Arts Theatre (venue)
10 March 2019 (released)
12 March 2019
Bearing in mind ‘Six’ began it’s life as a student show that was taken from Cambridge University to the Edinburgh Fringe (2017), it’s no surprise to find the Arts Theatre buzzing with expectant twenty something’s. Twenty three year old Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have definitely hit the sweet spot with this sharp and sassy show where Henry VIII’s six wives battle for visibility on their ‘Divorced, beheaded, Live!’ tour. ‘You’re gonna find out how we got un-friended!’ The pop score with an all girl band (ladies in waiting) mixes up R & B, soul, electro with a touch of Greensleeves. Gabriella Slade’s costumes bring to horrifying life the sparkling doublet and fishnet hoes of a Tudor girl-band. Think Little Mix but funnier.
The six actors playing the wives are, (like every good girl-band) unique and powerful in their own way with impressive vocals and fabulous moves. On occasion their performances hit a darker note; ‘One word in a stupid rhyme’ complains Katherine Howard (Aimie Atkinson), before singing a Britney Spears inspired number about the series of men that groomed and abused her. It’s a stand out performance as the choruses return and we see her descend into a state of disassociation, ‘going through the motions’ as she must have done with all those men that abused her. The funniest of the six is Anna of Cleves (Alexia McIntosh) who having been divorced for not looking as good as her profile picture, is enjoying the bling, doing her thing in the Palace of Richmond.
There is a genuine feminist message here as the wives take control of their ‘her-story’ with a moment in the spotlight to sing of their lives, written of patriarchal history. However the show is set up as a battle for the title of Queen who was treated the worst by Henry VIII which isn’t exactly empowering. They realise (rather too late) that creating their own narratives and supporting each other might be more radical than having a cat-fight over who had the most miscarriages. OK, it may be more Spice Girl-power with Beyonce attitude than anything seriously feminist but the punchy performances and satirical tone make up for that.
Marlow and Moss have learned much from Hamilton and Chicago, if you go back a bit further. Although a very clever concept the stadium show style presentation doesn’t give a huge amount of scope for dramatic development. When they head off to the House of Holbein for a German electro-pop mash up to find the real Anne Cleves behind the famous picture, there is a hint of what the show could have been, given a more expansive approach. But, who am I to judge – ‘the Milennials’ obviously loved every second of it!
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