Arts Theatre, London 28/09/2019
Make some room on that “hottest ticket” top-spot Hamilton, there’s a new show in town. Officially re-opening it’s open-ended residence at the Arts Theatre in January 2019 (currently extended until July 2020), Six is no stranger to heightened fandom. Sold out performances, masses of fan art and queues to meet the cast after each performance gives an indication to the level of success with it’s audiences.
Created by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss in their final term at Cambridge University for the Edinburgh Fringe festival, Six is a non-stop 75 minute alternative musical that presents itself as a pop concert. The show stars Henry VIII’s wives each taking turns to tell their stories and compete to be the ‘best’ queen.
Separating the audience from the set, a royal purple curtain parts to allow the cast to line up across the front of the stage in blackout. A dramatic spotlight flashes above each queen as they reveal their fantastic costume and announce their fate; the curtain drops and the venue plunges into a high energy, slickly choreographed and tongue-in-cheek show hosted by the infamous spouses of our former King.
After an introductory number ‘Ex-Wives’, it is quickly learned that this is a fourth wall breaking show. With interaction of all sorts to the unassuming front row, this West End smash hit is like no other. Each queen in turn gets their solo, with a break in the “competition” to introduce the ‘Haus Of Holbein’ via neon neck ruffs, sunglasses and a European rave soundtrack from the live band.
The songs are a joy to behold, they are so well written and each one is based on a different sub-genre of pop music. Four out of six characters at this performance played by alternates and an understudy (Aragon: Shekinah McFarlane, Seymour: Courtney Stapleton, Howard: Vicki Manser, Parr: Collette Guitart) goes unnoticed as the vocal talent and acting performance from each queen is outstanding; Manser embodies such energy and characterisation for her portrayal of Howard. A tearful and beautiful rendition of ‘Heart Of Stone’ from Stapleton is a highlight, receiving the biggest applause of the night for a solo.
The sass and character coming from the cast is wildly entertaining and captivating with inter-song banter between the queens carrying the show. Main cast members Millie O’Connell (Anne Boleyn) and Alexia McIntosh (Anna of Cleves) command the stage in their roles. O’Connell is hilariously amorous and audacious, with McIntosh equally as funny and fierce.
It’s hardly surprising that a show with such raucous fun and entertainment as this has embarked on a North American tour, with an imminent UK tour (starring McFarlane as Cleves), also opening in Sydney, Broadway and Chicago. Who needs King Henry VIII to tell their story? Long live the Queens!