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Six (Susan Elkin reviews)

Six – ★★★★
By Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss. Produced by Kenny Wax Ltd and Global Musicals Ltd
society/company: West End & Fringe (directory)
performance date: 01 Sep 2018
venue: Arts Theatre, London

Photo: Idil Sukan


Most school children can recite “Divorced, beheaded died, divorced, beheaded, survived.” Many can list Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr. Their stories are familiar except that they’re not.

This witty, sassy, sexy show presents the six women as a sextet competing with one another until they realise that they’re all identified only in relation to Henry. What about giving each of them her own voice? The underpinning feminism is worn lightly but it’s the crux of the piece which also features a splendid all female on-stage band led by Katy Richardson.

Gabriella Slade’s costumes are metallic and revealing (inspired by Madonna?) with hints of Tudor. There’s a lot of leg, bosom, fishnet and body-revealing gaps. It’s deliciously incongruous – think Horrible Histories crossed with a pop concert which references Beyoncé, Lily Allen, Adele, Rihanna, Ariana Grande and Alicia Keys among others.

Each Queen presents her case in song which means a range of sounds and styles. They’re all very strong in personality, charisma and voice with lots of hilarious anachronistic asides. Alexia McIntosh is especially memorable as the fourth wife, Anna of Cleves who managed to extricate herself and then spend the rest of her life living in luxury at Henry’s expense. “Tragic!” comments McIntosh, eyes flashing tellingly, before her terrific I’m the Queen of the Castle number.

Jarneia Richard-Noel is a hot, angry Catherine of Aragon wearing spikes on her head like the Statue of Liberty. Millie O’Connell’s Anne Boleyn is ruefully funny and Aimie Atkinson’s Katherine Howard has a nice knowing way of tipping her head as she details the men she had before Henry. As Jane Seymour, Natalie Paris is more actorly and Maiya Quansah-Breed finds warm seriousness in Catherine Parr. The contrasts add up to an effective balance in a very accomplished cast.

Lights flash, bodies pound and the jokes come thick and fast in this energetic show. Lucy Moss (who also wrote this show with Toby Marlow) and Jamie Armitage certainly know how to direct in a way which really exploits talent and coheres as slick, arresting theatre. It had massive acclaim in Edinburgh where Kenny Wax saw it and offered to produce it. It runs at London, Arts Theatre until 14 October and then tours until the end of the year. There will be a lot of standing ovations.

Photo: Idil Sukan

 This review was first published by Sardines:
Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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