Imagine if the six wives of Henry VIII formed a girl band consisting of the usual archetypes of the pushy Mariah, the indie and unassuming one, the balladeer, the sexy siren and the scary outspoken member.
This is the concept for Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’s musical Six which revisits well known women and debunks some myths and takes the word history and trades it in for herstory.
The tagline for the show is Divorced, Beheaded Live and this highlights how seriously you are meant to take it. Essentially, you have the wives of this infamous king reimagined as members of a British Destiny’s Child, and even though they are singing for survival, we know how this story ends.
From the opening song Ex-Wives sung by all the queens, the show grabs you and won’t let go. It already has a huge following with many fans knowing the songs before the first line is uttered. But, even if you are newcomer like me, there is much to enjoy here. There are many laughs, as each character pitches their story to you and why they should be victorious.
Some of the songs are not as good as others and the concept does feel a bit thin as another historical show given a modern makeover does seem to have stolen Six’s crown. & Juliet features tried and tested hits reworked and does something clever, subversive and has identity running through every single scene.
And at times Six does feel as if it wants its cake and eat it because female empowerment is a running theme, but the characters do end up resorting to criticising one another and hair-pulling like a tabloid representation of the Sugababes or Girls Aloud.
But it is playful and funny and highly original and never outstays its welcome. And the key selling point for me are the wonderful performers and some of the songs which are real bangers.
Lauren Drew’s Catherine of Aragon sends up the singer who puts runs into every single song and brings sass a plenty. Lauren Byrne’s Jane Seymour has a sob story and delivers it like an X Factor contestant who does not want to go home as she has so much more to give.
Shekinah McFarlane has performed in this show before and it shows. She oozes confidence and has a great connection with the audience.
Jodie Steele plays a Katherine Howard for the #MeToo generation, playful, enjoying life and attention from men but inside broken and used.
Harriet Wilson covers the role of Catherine Parr on the night I attended and does so with aplomb as she has great stage presence.
Maddison Bulleyment’s Anne Boleyn has a running gag about losing her head, which she claims makes her more worthy of winning. Singing in the style of Lily Allen (who is often being trolled on Twitter), this brilliant actor has fun with the role and plays the audience like a violin.
Six has many fans and you can see why. It takes a piece of history and makes it accessible to a younger audience by, like, literally redoing it.
As a performance piece and a gig it leaves you smiling and if you had to vote on a worthy winner, you would be saying yassss to all six queens.
Six is at The Lowry until 11th January with availability best in the final week of the run.