Review: ★★★★ SIX, Arts Theatre

Review: ★★★★ SIX, Arts Theatre

Think you know the six wives of Henry VIII? Think again. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have reimagined and reclaimed them in this short but stunning new musical that puts the Six queens centre stage.

The format is clever and original; SIX is more of a concert than a conventional musical. Supported by a talented all-female band, Catherine, Anne, Jane, Anna, Katherine and Catherine take it in turns to deliver powerful solo performances in their quest to determine which of them had the toughest life as a wife of the gouty, blood-thirsty king.

The company of six queens are incredible. Maiya Quansah-Breed as an Alicia Keys-inspired Catherine Parr makes a very impressive professional debut and Millie O’Connell’s Anne Boleyn is compulsively watchable, but the entire cast do an outstanding job. Each Queen’s solo performance is excellent, and the stamina and talent required to simultaneously master Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s hyper-energetic choreography must be enormous. There are some slightly weaker vocal moments in the group numbers, but that is very easy to forgive given the solo vocal talent they all display.

The contemporary pop-inspired soundtrack is unrelentingly catchy; each Queen has her own style, ranging from Jane Seymour’s moving ballad (Natalie Parris) to the more Rihanna-esque vibes of Anna of Cleeves (Alexia McIntosh). The variety means there is something for everyone – but in reality, the enthusiasm and talent injected into every performance means that everything seems to be for everyone. The performances are supported by a clearly very gifted design team – Gabriella Slade’s costumes are enormous fun, and the lighting design (Tim Deiling) is clever.

The less convincing moments come from the dialogue between songs, which often feels stilted – perhaps a bit too self-aware. The realisation at the end that the Queens have been too long in the shadow of Henry VIII and need to reclaim their own stories comes across as unnecessary and even a little patronising. With just a bit of work to tighten up these sections, the musical would flow effortlessly.

SIX has all the makings of a show that is Going Places – it is fresh, original, feminist, seventy five minutes long and so darned catchy. Definitely a show – wait for it – worth losing your head over.

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