Smart, sexy and super sassy, SIX remixes 500 years of historical heartbreak into a 75-minute celebration of sisterly sassitude
“Do you remember us from your GCSEs?” shouts Jarneia Richard-Noel’s Catherine of Aragon as SIX takes to the stage. But this isn’t your average history lesson. Oh no. We may remember them as “divorced, beheaded, died” but for one night only, the infamous six wives of Henry VIII are “divorced, beheaded, LIVE!”
Remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak into a 75-minute celebration of 21st century sisterly sassitude, SIX turns Tudor queens into pop princesses. Tired of being defined by their husband, Catherine, Anne, Jane, Anna, Katherine and Catherine take to the stage to tell “her-story”, singing and dancing up a storm as they each give their version of events of living with the infamous King.
Played out against Emma Bailey’s stadium-style set and Tim Deiling’s impressive lighting design, SIX is best described as a cross between a musical and a pop concert. From the opening number EX-WIVES, it’s clear that this sextet is here to party. Dressed in punkish variants of period dress, the girl group look like a Tudor Little Mix – and sound like them too. Backed by an all-female band, the Queens channel the likes of Beyoncé, Avril Lavigne and Adele in their song styles and display a Spice Girls slickness to their synchronised dance moves.
It isn’t long before a competition emerges, each Queen taking to the mic to share her misery of being married to Henry VIII through a song. All of the cast are excellent here, fully embodying the spirit of the modern pop queens. Millie O’Connell particularly stands out for her hilarious portrayal of Anne Boleyn, eye rolling and strutting about the stage as she belts out her catchy Lily Allen style number DON’T LOSE YOUR HEAD. Alexia McIntosh is equally sassy as Anne of Cleves, her Rhianna-inspired QUEEN OF THE CASTLE going down a storm with the audience. Even Natalie Paris’ ballad HEART OF STONE as Jane Seymour is brilliant in its full diva glory.
While this isn’t exactly an accurate history lesson, SIX doesn’t pretend to be. The smartness of this piece is that it revels in what it wants to be – a fun, silly, comic and powerful pop concert told by six strong independent women. Here, creators Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have successfully dragged the dull and dowdy view of Henry VIII’s wives forward 500 years in a wonderful effervescent way, providing a different perspective on the six queens separate from their status as wives.
More importantly, while SIX may be cloaked in silliness at times (“What hurts more than a broken heart?” asks Paris’ Jane Seymour, staking a claim for her story as the saddest. “A severed head,” retorts O’Connell as Anne Boleyn), it makes some serious points about female victimhood and survival, showing that even 500 years later, there are still parallels to be found in the female experience.
I’d give it SIX stars if I could.
SIX runs at The Lowry, Salford until 16 December 2018.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.