Arts Theatre, London – until 14 October 2018
Guest reviewer: Emily Schofield
Funny, upbeat and quintessentially British – Six is the perfect mix of history and pop.
Six is a pop concert starring the six Tudor Queens of King Henry VIII. It was written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss and details the lives of the women behind one of the most well-known monarchs in British history.
All six of the wives, (Catherine of Aragon – Jarneia Richard-Noel; Anne Boleyn – Millie O’Connell; Jane Seymour – Natalie Paris; Anne of Cleves – Alexia McIntosh; Catherine Howard – Aimie Atkinson; Catherine Parr – Maiya Quansah-Breed) are fantastic. Their harmonies, as well as individual solos, are all incredible and each actress brings a very interesting perspective to their Queen, turning notorious rumours on their heads as well as imagining how their lives could have been different had they not married Henry.
The show heavily sends a message of girl power, which is so refreshing to see in a historically-influenced piece. It doesn’t make any of the women appear weak or naïve. Each of them is strong and independent, with their own goals and agendas. Given how little we are taught in schools about the individual wives themselves, I learned a fair amount about the Queens, especially Catherine Parr and her advocacy for women’s education.
The music is easily the most impactful aspect of the show. Each wife has one solo song, sung in chronological order, each detailing what life was like for them with King Henry VIII, as well as a selection of group numbers. I was initially worried that, as the show had a very distinct pop sound, each song would sound the same, or repetitive themes would run throughout each number, making it sound dull rather quickly. However, I was completely wrong. Each Queen has a definitive and unique sound – from Anne Boleyn’s cheeky rebellious number; to Jane Seymour’s heart-breaking power ballad. No two songs sound the same, and all the songs are surprisingly memorable and catchy.
The only real issue with Six is that, unless you have the knowledge of Henry VIII and his six wives, quite a lot of this show would be hard to grasp. Not much exposition is given aside from the girls’ solo songs, and therefore the whole arc of who Henry was and the changes he made to the British monarchy would be completely lost to anyone who didn’t know their Tudor history. Thankfully, as the ladies pointed out, Henry VIII is a key topic in school history lessons so the audience were fully aware of who the ladies were singing about.
The costume design (Gabriella Slade) for this show was beautiful. I fell in love with each of the women’s outifts – mixing tudor fashion with modern pop group clothing. The use of sequinned corsets and mini skirts really helped to sell the wives’ indivudalality as well as helping the audience to contextualise the abstract piece. The costumes matched the aesthetic and tone of the show perfectly, and really allowed the audience to suspend their belief in imaging these historical figures as pop icons.
The set design (Emma Bailey), as expected for a concert, was not particularly detailed, however, like the ladies’ tudor inspring pop outfits, there was still direct references to the Tudor monarchy – such as the large throne set at the back of the stage, whilst also maintaining modern culture, with enormous stage lights and a small set of black stairs for the girls to sit on.
Overall, I think Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have created a fantastic experience. It is a must for young girls in need of some new role models and left the audience feeling incredibly uplifted and inspired as well as thoroughly entertained. I’m certain they will be very successful on their tour for the rest of this year.