“Remember us from your GCSEs?” – Not like this we don’t. It would be great to see my old history teacher do a rendition of this though!
The moral of the show leads to the satisfying realisation that Henry VIII is actually the one defined by his wives, not the other way around. The queens propose a singing competition to establish who had a harder time during their marriage which, whilst this premise doesn’t really fit with a progressive feminist attitude, cannot be faulted in its entertainment value. The musical itself takes the form of a pop concert that, with extreme hilarity, crudeness and attitude, allows each queen to voice their individual story. It therefore makes sense for me to follow suit:
- Catherine of Aragon (Jarneia Richard-Noel) aka Shakira, is a strong and intelligent character with a much firmer grasp of respectability and reality than her husband. The tribal style, matched with Richard-Noel’s incredible voice, is upbeat, infectious and sets the tone for the rest of the show.
- Anne Boleyn (Millie O’Connell) aka Lily Allen, is my personal favourite. Her quirky, say-it-how-it-is attitude under the guise of complete innocence is incredibly effective in conveying her scandalous story – she revels in her history which, coupled with her faultless voice and cheeky characterisation, makes for a memorable number that definitely maintains the standard of Aragon.
- Jane Seymour (Natalie Paris) aka Adele, offers a tonal shift in the form of an emotional ballad. Paris’ clarity and strength of voice effortlessly shatters the comedic ferocity of previous numbers; whilst it is not high energy, it offers needed relief. However, during the dialogue, her downer attitude becomes repetitive and rather irritating (this is a reflection on the scripting rather than on Paris’ performance).
- Anne of Cleves (Alexia McIntosh) aka Rihanna, addresses the issue of appearance in a way that relates strongly to the 21st century. Refreshingly, and with perfect mastery of comic delivery, the now divorced Anne relays just how hard done by she is as the ‘queen of the castle’ with all her wealth and independence – to quote Katherine Howard OH WHEN WILL JUSTICE BE SERVED?!
- Katherine Howard (Aimie Atkinson) aka Ariana Grande, has a song that shifts from a ditsy melody to one with a serious message regarding male sexual intention. Atkinson is fantastic at conveying these two contradictory moods with relentless stamina which, in a song with four choruses, is no mean feat.
- Catherine Parr (Maiya Quansah-Breed) aka Emeli Sandé has an outstanding voice; it is hard to believe that this is her professional debut. She marks the resolution of the competition between the queens in a confident ballad that addresses the need to just be yourself – an important message that is compellingly delivered.
I feel like the only place this show falls down is in its potential for cringe-worthy clichés and feministic hyperbole. When you watch it, however, this is dissolved; the show is well aware of the awkwardness of its modern jargon but, in embracing it, creates a comic masterpiece. The prominent anger, frustration, heart-break, sarcasm and bitterness contributes to its emotionally dexterous soundtrack, a soundtrack with lyrics saturated in clever historical puns and absolutely dripping in satirical mockery. In its attempt to rewrite her-story, SIX offers a highly entertaining tribute to these women as well as a celebration of musical talent and female individuality. It is also annoyingly catchy – you have been warned.
- By Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
- Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage
- Cast includes: Jarneia Richard-Noel, Millie O'Connell, Natalie Paris, Alexia McIntosh, Aimie Atkinson and Maiya Quansah-Breed
- Arts Theatre
- Until 5th January 2020
- Time: 75 minutes without an interval