Arts Theatre, London – until 14 October 2018
Beheadings are brutal and barbaric, whether they occurred five months or five centuries ago. And yet, with heads jauntily skewed, grim grins (albeit momentarily) and hand-held mics tightly grasped, the cast of Six The Musical make light of Henry VIII’s murderous misogyny.
Judging by the response to the show, both in its sold-out Edinburgh run and now at London’s Arts Theatre, the passage of time appears to condone such laughter. To be fair there is occasional light shed on some of the unpleasantness associated with being one of Henry’s six wives – witness the sinister hands that grope and paw at Aimie Atkinson’s Katherine Howard. But for the most part, the evening serves as a high-volume, sugar-coated history lesson, aimed at today’s reality-TV entertained masses and not having to make them think too hard.
If the show’s moral compass may be adrift, at least its technical standards are excellent. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have written some sassy songs, Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s whip-smart choreography is well drilled while Tim Deiling’s stadium-inspired lighting only adds to the rock gig feel of the piece.
One might have hoped that today’s woke generation of theatre folk might have delivered more from a musical treatment of one of English history’s most monstrous monarchs, although at (thankfully) a little over an hour long, perhaps the creatives recognised the attention span of their target demographic. Ultimately though the same old metropolitan hypocrisies prevail, with the show serving as little more than shallow entertainment for its prosecco fuelled audiences. Marlow and Moss clearly have great technical and creative potential ahead of them – Six The Musical however deserves to be filed away in the history books, and soon.