REVIEW: SIX @Arts Theatre, London

Brian Butler September 3, 2018

Some daft ideas – like singling and dancing cats – turn out to be theatrical gold mines, so why not the 6 dead wives of Henry VIII forming a girl band to tell the true story of their lives ? And it works.

SIX is the brainchild of relative newcomers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. And it’s a sure-fire hit.

This all-female romp through silliness and high campery makes a serious point. Women are not defined by the men in their lives – especially when six very strong women all share the same husband one after the other. As they say – this is not history but “her-story”.

This high-octane Spice Girly pop concert format works brilliantly from its fiery opening to its standing ovation finale.

Whitney-style ballads are mixed with disco numbers and the dancing never pauses for even a split-second so the furious momentum is maintained throughout its seventy-five tempestuous minutes. With an all-girl backing group, there’s not a man in sight and its gorgeous to watch.

All six actor/singer/dancers are at the top of their game and each portrays an insight into these very different Queens.

Jarneia Richard-Noel kicks us off with the feisty foreigner Catherine of Aragon, who takes no prisoners. When faced with divorce she belts out “You wanna replace me? N.n.n.n..n no way.”

Millie O’Connell is a petite, minxy Anne Boleyn, who finds herself three in a bed with Henry and wife one. As she says to her predecessor “Don’t be bitter ‘cos I”m fitter.” Poor old Anne becomes the butt of the rest of the cast’s bitchiness and the beheading jokes at her expense are thick and fast.

Natalie Paris is Jane Seymour, strutting the stage, knowing she’s the only one to give him the male heir Henry craves. Her solo is a haunting Whitney Houston style ballad, telling the king  “You can build me up, you can tear me down. But my love is set in stone.”

Alexia McIntosh is Anna of Cleves, another feisty Queen whose looks in reality don’t match Holbein’s “fake news” portrait of her. She’s a loser from there on, but she leads the high life, as she sings “I’m Queen of the castle.”

Aimie Atkinson’s Katherine Howard is a raunchy sex kitten, whose sex-like starts at 13 in bed with her tutor.

Maya Quansah-Breed makes up the six-pack as Catherine Parr, the only wife to survive her husband . She sings a mournful love song to the man she must jilt to marry the King. “I don’t need your love” she ends up singing to both the men in her life.

It’s significant that the show’s Executive Producer is a the renowned musical theatre composer George Stiles. He has clearly seen something great in this Revenge of the Tudor Babes show. He’s right.

It’s 5-star entertainment and will prove one of the musical theatre sensations of the London stage in 2018 and for long after.

SIX plays at the Arts Theatre, London until October 14 and later in the year is in Southampton, Salford and Glasgow.

Review by Brian Butler.