Thursday 4 November 2021


Theatre review: Six at the Vaudeville Theatre

"Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived." If you grew up in the UK you probably learned all about the wives of Henry VIII in this way in school. But how much do you truly know about these women, their lives before marrying the king, and what made them unique individuals rather than one of the wives? The musical Six lifts the curtain on these incredible women at last, empowering them by giving each one a chance to sparkle in the spotlight and rewrite their history, so it becomes her story.

Six has been one of the most acclaimed new musicals in recent years. Starting out at at the Edinburgh Fringe, it landed in the intimate Arts Theatre in London as part of a UK-wide tour. Word-of-mouth buzz meant it extended its run multiple times and even moved across the pond to Broadway (sadly only for the duration of previews before COVID-19 closed the New York theatre district, but it finally officially opened there last month).

Due to the pandemic and West End closures, the London production has now moved to the larger Vaudeville Theatre and will welcome a brand-new cast in just a couple of weeks time as the show has been extended until well into 2022. Although I had the pleasure of seeing a performance with several of the rockin' ladies that have taken on the iconic roles for some time now, alongside some excellent alternates – and it showed in how well they were in tune with the women they portrayed: Catherine of Aragon (JarnĂ©ia Richard-Noel), Anne Boleyn (Bryony Duncan), Jane Seymour (Natalie Paris), Anna of Cleves (Cherelle Jay), Katherine Howard (Zara McIntosh), and Catherine Parr (Danielle Steers).

And that's especially important in this musical, which does not have a large company, epic set designs, or tons of special effects wowing audiences. It's 'just' the six queens commanding the stage with their pop-rock outfits with a Tudor twist and powerful vocals belting out some incredibly catchy tunes. The costume design and musical styles of each of the queens is partly inspired by well-known female singers, from Beyoncé to Adele, and this makes each of them distinct, rather than one in half a dozen.

The book by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss isn't a traditional historical play, it's a pop-rock concert in which each of the wives takes a turn to sing to the audience about their life. Through their songs – each hugely memorable, from Anne Boleyn's playful 'Don't Lose Ur Head' to Jane Seymour's heart-wrenching 'Heart of Stone' – they try to convince viewers that they suffered the most and should be heading up the band as the lead. While the solo performances go from charming to hilarious to somber, it's the group numbers that really make an impact. Opening song 'Ex-Wives' and finale 'Six' are written, performed, and staged so well; the melodies extremely catchy and the lyrics so very clever.

Six isn't like any other musical I've ever seen, and it's all the better for it. Part pop-rock concert, part musical, and part history lesson, it combines the best elements of all for one hell of an experience. By the end of the performance the audience is unanimously on their feet, clapping and whooping along like they're at an actual concert comprised of global super stars. This dazzling show – and music – has to be experienced live.

Six is playing at The Vaudeville Theatre and you can currently book tickets until 1 May 2022.

Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share Button