10th Jul, 2020

Henry VIII wives musical hits Malven audience for SIX

Malvern Editorial 31st Oct, 2019 Updated: 31st Oct, 2019

SIX’ started out in 2017 as a simple idea to take to the Edinburgh Fringe by two Cambridge university students, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.

They had little stage writing experience to speak of, but simply wanted to address the gender balance and get more female toes on the still male-dominated stage.

It has of course, in a very short space of time, become an international phenomenon.

It is currently smashing it in the West End – the hottest ticket on Broadway and is now set to woo the provinces on its first national tour.

If this first night at Malvern is anything to go by, the triumph continues unabated – never have I witnessed such excitement nor seen such huge hordes of adoring fans besieging the stage door after the show.

This eureka of an idea was to do a new take on one of the oldest and most done-to-death historical tales – that of the six wives of Henry VIII.

Here though for the first time the main man is missing – yes in the words of the legendary Joe Brown: “That right old man name of Henry” is relegated off-stage.

The stars instead are his six much abused wives who appear as an all girl pop group to tell their tale in just 75 minutes of pure theatrical dynamite.

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived was how I was taught to remember them – well, not any more! They are now Aragon, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard and Parr as in ‘SIX’ the group.

The stellar cast (with full character names) comprise Lauren Drew as Catherine of Aragon, Maddison Bulleyment as Anne Boleyn, Lauren Byrne as Jane Seymour, Shekinah McFarlane as Anne of Cleves, Jodie Steele as Katherine Howard and Athena Collins as Catherine Parr.

They all rock and share the acting, singing and dancing talents in equal measure. No doubt folks will have their favourite Queen, me – I just loved them all!

I cannot emphasise enough how clever this show is – it’s a fusion of a rock concert, a musical and the most exciting history lesson imaginable.

The band – or ‘Ladies in Waiting’ – are a high-energy roof-raising four piece under the musical direction and magical keys of Arlene McNaught.

In another move to make this musical accessible to young ears, each of the Queens has a programme-listed ‘Queenspiration’ –  for example, Katherine Howard’s are Ariana Grande and Britney Spears.

Writer Lucy Moss is also a co-director alongside Jamie Armitage,  there is tight and effective choreography from Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, stunning frocks from Gabriella Slade and an all-electric neon 21st century set befitting the 16th century Queens.

SIX is the third all female cast show I have by chance seen in succession; namely ‘Pride and Prejudice (sort of)’  and ‘Jack the Ripper – The Victims’ and all three are quasi historical pieces adapted for the stage in very different ways. The winner by several lengths is SIX.

I’m sure there will be musical theatre purists who do not approve but for me if this introduces new, young audiences then its doing a great job. Marlow and Moss could no doubt retire from the royalties pouring in but I hope this is just the start of lots more from this new British theatrical writing royalty.

These Queens are set to reign for a long, long time.

SIX runs until Saturday, November 2. Click here for times, tickets and more information.

*****

Review by Euan Rose.

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