Arts Theatre, London – until 14 October 2018
Took me a shameful while to catch up on this clever little riot of a feminist musical, down from an Edinburgh triumph and packing the Arts Theatre for weeks with whooping gigsters. But just as I hit a late matinee came news that it’ll be back there in 2019.
So hurrah, and worth mentioning why you should book in for 75 minutes of rackety song and dance about the six wives of Henry VIII, sisters in indignation springing loud ‘n’ liberated from the dismissive old rhyme of divorced-beheaded-died-divorced-beheaded-survived.
By Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, who will go far, it’s a histor-remix: a Tudor Beyoncé-castle funfair of a show. From Catherine of Aragon to Catherine Parr the ladies are reunited in the afterlife as a Spice-girly band in spectacular discobethan outfits – all jewelled splendour and fishnet legs. They storm on to a techno Greensleeves, to stage a competition and bitch-in (finally turning sisterly) about which of them got the worst deal.
The types as it neatly happens are feminist perennials: wronged loyal wife, dangerous condemned flirt, loving but ailing, rejected wallflower (Genesis Lynea is particularly funny as Ann of Cleves) followed by Catherine Howard with her stained past, and the enduring, if not wholly willing Catherine Parr as the survivor. Who, as she sharply points out, was a scholar, supporter of female education, and worth more tribute than most popular history gives her.
It’s clever, rackety, the manic disco twerking alleviated by two quietly heartfelt torch-songs of real emotion. It is also stuffed with laugh-out-loud rappy lyrics. Boleyn trills “tried to elope – but the Pope said nope – everybody chill! It’s totes God’s will”. So come in, get on down like it’s 1499. The young audience whooped and cheered. So did I.
All I long for now is for Dr David Starkey to come, admit its historical smartness, and lead the disco finale.
On till 14 Oct, but back in 2019. artstheatrewestend.co.uk.