Earlier this week, a group of us went to see the touring production of “Six” at the Theatre Royal. Playing to a full audience (not a seat empty – on a Wednesday!), the show tells the story of the six wives of Henry VIII and theorises what it might have been like if the six of them met (post-death) and discussed who had the toughest life.
The show is set out as a talent competition of sorts, with each wife singing about their lives and trying to make the audience feel sorry for them. Catherine of Aragon (Lauren Drew) sings about Henry trying to force her to move to a nunnery, Anna of Cleves (Shekinah McFarlane) describes how Henry didn’t approve of her “profile picture” and Anne Boleyn (Maddison Bulleyment) sings about… well, being beheaded.
But all of these trials and tribulations don’t make for a depressing show. In fact, the show is incredibly funny, with dark jokes cleverly intertwined with interesting historical facts – for example, did you realise that Catherine Parr (Elena Gyasi) was the first woman in England to publish a book in the English language? I certainly had no idea – all I knew before seeing this show was that Catherine Parr was the one that “survived”.
Most of the songs are heavily influenced by pop, and at times, it felt as though we were at a Little Mix concert rather than watching a historical musical. There are exceptions to the rule, of course – Jane Seymour (Caitlin Tipping)’s song, necessarily, is more of a traditional musical ballad as she sings about her new born son that she won’t have the opportunity to watch grow up. I can honestly say that this musical contains some of the most talented singing performances I’ve seen in a musical, with all six actresses able to perform funny yet meaningful pieces.
The most harrowing song was that belonging to Katherine Howard (Vicki Manser), who’s up-tempo track gradually became more and more stressful to watch as she was continually abused by men throughout her life, ending in her death sentence.
The lighting design is fantastic (particularly in the House of Holbein track, where the lights dimmed and the wives donned glow in the dark sunglasses and ruffs), and the music is performed by an all-female band comprising of Sarah Burrell on the keys, Vanessa Dominique on the drums, Frankie South on the guitar and Kat Bax on the bass.
This musical crossed with pop concert crossed with important social message is certainly something unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. As the song says, it’s “one of a kind, no category”.
Six: The Musical is on tour until September 2022.
Tom Morley, September 2021
The cast encouraged video recording for the last song - so here's our recording (courtesy of Elise!)