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The Oxford Playhouse

Six
5.0Overall Score

The musical Six is a joyous, energetic and riotous cross between a girl band pop concert and a feature length episode of BBC children’s history show, Horrible Histories.  It tells the story of Henry VIII’s six wives through a contemporary and feminist filter. Six young and extremely talented actors each take the role of one of Henry VIII’s wives – and through dance and song, tell their story, in a hilarious, contemporary and surprisingly moving way.

The actors were accompanied by a live band, made up of talented young women led by musical director and keyboardist, Arlene McNaught. Everything about this performance was right; the costumes were suitably sparkly and glitzy, the lighting show was the best I’ve seen in a long time – shiny and flashy yet not intrusive and the choreography was clever, precise and completely entertaining.  The set, designed by Emma Bailey, was just the right balance between glittering and functional, as was the make-up design.

The actors’ and musicians’ performances were absolutely flawless with each actor given a solo sequence, supported by the others.  Often in contemporary musicals, there is a tendency among the performers to shout their songs at one dynamic – loud. But these actors were real singers, with solo standard voices, who understood the power of dynamics, contrast and subtlety and had enough control over their voices to use this contrast to full effect. This meant that the audience was able to appreciate the show-stopping choruses belted out in full voice when they came, and there were many, because they were always juxtaposed with warm, rich, soft, melting vocals elsewhere.

I am not usually a fan of contemporary musicals as many of them seem to me to be a shameless, commercial manipulation of the lowest common musical and story denominator. Often these musicals rely on super elaborate sets and/or puppets, costumes and big names, whether or not appropriate for the role, to bring in the crowds.

Six is completely different.  In this tour, the cast is made up of relatively unknown actors, all who have earned their place on the cast through sheer talent and hard work. The set-up is simple; six young women, on stage for 80 mins, singing and dancing in front of one set accompanied by four musicians – and yet, it feels so fresh, modern and funny.  I truly believe that this is one musical worth the ticket price!

Housekeeping:Parents of young children will want to know that there are frequent references to oral sex during the performance.  They are, however, fleeting and relatively obscure, such that any youngster not already aware, would probably not become so by seeing this show.

My view is that you will enjoy the show infinitely more if you are already quite familiar with the stories and fates of Henry VIII’s six wives. You don’t need to read an erudite tome on the subject, just a short summary on each wife, if you are not already familiar, so that you will appreciate the jokes even more!

  • Musical
  • Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
  • Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage
  • Musical Director: Arlene McNaught
  • Choreography: Carrie-Anne Ingrouille
  • Cast includes Lauren Drew, Shekinah McFarlane, Maddison Bulleyment, Jodie Steele, Lauren Byrne and Athena Collins
  • The Oxford Playhouse
  • In Oxford until 23 November and then on UK tour until July 2020
  • 1 hour 20 mins without interval

About The Author

Editorial team & reviewer (UK)

Hailing from Japan, Catherine Flutsch studied philosophy and law in Australia at Sydney University. She moved to the UK to practice law and to soak up the art and culture. After a career in corporate law spanning Sydney, Tokyo and London, Catherine left legal practice and moved to Oxford. During her time as a full-time parent, she developed a portrait painting practice. She subsequently set up a management consultancy firm. Being her own boss means that she has time to indulge her passion for theatre, art and dance. Catherine has a particular love for Shakespeare and a special interest in Shakespeare's historical plays.

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