Hear it loud and clear: the past is back in fashion, and it’s more alive than ever. Just ask Six The Musical, the radical reinvention of Henry VIII’s wives, which reopened this week at the Arts Theatre.
But unlike Hamilton et al, Six doesn’t so much revisit the history books as tear them up, revelling in its own gleefully contemporary take on proceedings. Having stormed the Edinburgh Fringe last month as part of a nationwide tour, the show is now back for a second run at the Arts Theatre, sharper, shinier and sassier – and the result is, without doubt, London’s latest musical sensation.
So if you’re going, here’re Six stunning moments to look out for. And if not? Be warned: this is one chapter of her-story you won’t want to miss.
Six is booking at the Arts Theatre until 14 October.
Catherine Howard’s atti-Tudor
As you might expect from THAT rhyme, these Six ladies have some serious axes to grind with their old spouse. And so, for our entertainment, the Six wives welcome us to the “histo-remix”: their chance to tell us the untold individual stories “your GCSEs alive on stage”. The Queen judged to have had it the worst at Henry VIII’s hand wins the contest.
Throughout a dazzling 75 minutes, the Queens sing, snipe and spar superbly in their individual moments in the spotlight. And as the competition ratcheted up to crown a winner, the sarcasm-dripping one-liners meted out by Catherine Howard (Aimie Atkinson), in particular, had us positively laughing our heads off- oh. Sorry.
The kick-ass all-female band
It’s not just the Queens who each get a turn or two to shine in Six.
The musical’s roof-raising sounds are powered by an all-female band who, led by Musical Director Katy Richardson, kicked royal posterior all night long. A special shout-out goes to each and every one of them.
‘Ex-Wives’ getting stuck in your head
Lucy Moss & Toby Marlow, and the West End – now that’s a marriage that won’t end in a hurry. The two recent Uni graduates have penned a musical overflowing with vibrant, contemporary lyrics (“Everybody chill, it’s totes God’s will” chimes Anne Boleyn) and ear-worming pop tunes – none more so than pounding opening, ‘Ex-Wives’.
Drawing inspiration from artists right the way from Kanye to Adele – with an added dash of ‘Greensleeves’ and ‘I’m The King Of The Castle’ here and there – this is as fresh and exciting a sound as you’ll encounter in modern musical theatre. Just be sure to apologise to your loved ones in advance – you’ll have a newfound urge to belt when you return home.
Haus Of Holbein
And talking of ear-worm, one late-show number, Haus Of Holbein, also went down a storm on opening night.
Without revealing too much, the brilliant staging and lighting, as well as Alexia McIntosh’s awesome vocals, whipped the audience into a frenzy, and it proved a real highlight (no pun intended). German electro-beats have never sounded so good.
A touching turn
That’s not to say Six is relentless in its pace, however. There’s more than enough variation in the soundtrack to keep you second-guessing where it’ll next venture, and through the creatives’ oft-acute lyrics, there’s a surprising amount of heart behind it all too.
Jane Seymour (Natalie Paris) takes full advantage with her solo ballad, but the poignant message behind Catherine Howard’s pop-fuelled number – about how she came to understand her manipulation – gave me just as many chills. Along with a whole lot of fun, Six offers substance to consider, as well.
A grin on your face
Above all else, Six is a celebration. It’s a celebration of powerful women reclaiming their story. It’s a celebration of innovation, of new and exciting voices on the stage. And it’s a celebration of sheer energy, talent, and a whole lotta sass.
I defy anybody to leave the Arts Theatre without a smile on their face this month. Go see Six? Go see it Six times.