Late to join the party- but I recently went to watch Six at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. Although the story of Six’s creation is well known by now, let’s take you back to 2017. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss along with some fellow Cambridge students took Six to the Edinburgh Fringe and two years later it opened on the West End. The rest is history. Literally.
Six tells the story of Henry VIII’s six wives. The concept that is set up is a pop concert where the six queens are competing for who should be the lead singer based on who suffered the worst at one of Henry’s wives. One by one, they sing for the audience’s approval in chronological order: Aragon, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard, and Parr. In the true nature of our desire to reclaim history and tell stories from different perspectives (other than the white male) the musical ends with them realising that they are only identified by their marriage to a man and have lost their individuality. And in the spirit of Happy Endings, they all come together to rewrite their own stories. It really is female power.
It isn’t just about diversity with gender though- the queens are a number of different ethnicities and sizes. The casting has been completely opened up- and everybody is welcome. Even the band are made up of women of all ethnicities and sizes. They also equally rock the stage as well! The show, alongside, productions such as Hamilton, demonstrate that just because history has an idea of these figures doesn’t mean we have to stick to that in contemporary times. Every single woman on that stage deserved to be there- and it didn’t matter how they looked; their talent spoke for itself.
I must admit as a bit of a nerd, I also enjoyed learning about these women. Tudors- seemed to be a topic that I just missed throughout school, so although I knew the basics, it was by no means hugely familiar historical material to me. History really does seem to work with musicals.
I do think there is the opportunity to update some of the choreography, which I imagine hasn’t changed overly much since its move to the West End. There are certain moments that feel stale or awkward and this isn’t due to a cast that is used to performing this musical 24/7 as the cast had only recently taken up the roles.
Each of the Queen’s shone brightly but for me, the star was Janiq Charles. I couldn’t take my eyes off her for most of the performance- she just had this incredible stage presence and maturity. I also have to mention Inez Budd who gave a hysterical performance as Katherine Howard- she never let the character drop once.
Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable production. I wouldn’t necessarily be rushing back as I desire to do with some other musicals, but I certainly can’t complain. I think there’s still a lot of scope for stories about these six women, and I hope that the media continues to unpick their stories and find new and exciting ways to bring them to audiences.
- Show title: Six
- Venue: Vaudeville Theatre
- Review date: 26th October 2023