Five hundred years of historical heartbreak is remixed into a 75-minute celebration of sisterly sassitude in Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage’s joyous all-female musical Six, which has transferred from the Edinburgh Festival to the Arts Theatre in the West End.
As its title suggests, the six wives of Henry VIII finally take to the stage forming a girl band and set the record straight. With the format taking the form of a solo from each of the wives, we are treated to what is, in effect a history lesson set to music. Dressed to kill in punkish variants of period dress (costume designer: Gabriella Slade), the singing sextet, complemented by a six-piece, all-female backing band, who add a real rock vibe to the show, strut and synchronise their moves, snapping into line to form a fearsome regiment of defiant self-possession. Girl power indeed!
The musical numbers from composer/librettists Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss range from a rare inspired number to more soulful ballads and witty, tightly written lyrics abound – “My name’s Catherine of Aragon. Was married 24 years. I’m a paragon of royalty, my loyalty is to the Vatican,” or “Prick up your ears. I’m Catherine who lost her head for my promiscuity outside of wed. Lock up your husbands, lock up your sons, K-Howard is here and the fun’s begun …”
The hard-working cast cannot be faulted. Millie O’Connell makes a sarcastic, man-eating Anne Boleyn, Jameia Richard-Noel a sparky Catherine of Aragon, for whom everything wasn’t enough, while Natalie Paris’s Jane Seymour wears her heartbreak on her sleeve in a melancholy ballad that makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. Aimie Atkinson is perfect as the vain Catherine Howard and there is strong support from Alexia McIntosh and Maiya Quansah-Breed as Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr respectively. Furthermore, the harmonies of this talented sextet are exquisite, soaring, full of energy and seamlessly negotiating the changes in mood and tempo. Admittedly the pace slackens a bit from time to time an although it is pretty light-hearted stuff, it remains faithful to history’s view of events and the outcomes that befell Henry’s armada of women.
In short, then, this is an exuberant, vivacious highly original musical that is simply a joy to watch from start to finish!
Runs until Saturday 14 October at the Arts Theatre, then plays at the Rose Theatre Kingston, the NST Southampton, The Lowry, Salford Quays and the SEC Glasgow, Lomond Auditorium.
Box office: 020 7287 9236Last modified: April 6, 2021