A brand new cast form a historical tableau of leading ladies at this years’ Fringe. Henry VIII’s wives finally get the Hamilton treatment: ‘Tonight. We’re Divorced, Beheaded, LIVE!’ Who needs a throne when you’ve a microphone? Not these six.
Written by Cambridge English and History graduates Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six is given a refreshing kick from a professional cast. The opening number (think Spice Girls meets Chicago’s ‘Cell Block Tango’) gives us an idea of what to expect from the show. It is powerful and catchy with tight harmonies and excellent performances. From here, the musical goes from strength-to-strength, really picking up pace a third of the way through, and the soundtrack is generally good with a few real gems. Marlow and Moss provide consistently intelligent lyrics with wordplay aplenty. Overall, the musical’s concept is simple and is generally well executed. Pun intended.
While the music is excellent, Six lacks a convincing narrative structure. Considering its musical-concert style, this doesn’t necessarily detract from the performance. Naturally though, as audience members, we look for a more driven plot. The dialogue between songs often feels forced and unpolished, with laugh out loud moments few and far between. Unfortunately the script feels pantomime-esque which, against a dazzling soundtrack, detracts from the high points of the show.
Six is undoubtedly at its most exciting when the leading ladies are giving the powerfully written songs their all. The women are vocally flawless with a collectively electric presence. There is truly no weak link amongst these fierce and fabulous Queens. Catherine of Aragon (Jarneia Richard-Noel) and Katherine Parr (Maiya Quansah-Breed) demonstrate particularly strong vocals while Anne Boleyn’s (Millie O’Connell) stage presence is stand-out. Choreographer Carrie-Anne Ingrouille is currently resident choreographer on Hamilton, and it shows. The dances are sassy, compelling and clean-cut. The atmosphere at Underbelly during Six is like nothing else.
Quite brilliantly, Six is accessible. All you need is an interest in pop-music or musical theatre, and loving a bit of history can’t hurt but is by no means essential. While the concept of the musical is quite contradictory, the writers do not shy away from this. Six celebrates womanhood and independence without denying the patriarchal framework which confined them. The reason we know the names of these women is because of one man and the historical, religious and political systems in place. We can’t change their places in history but, in being self-aware, Six imaginatively shines a light on what might have been.
Musical theatre fanatics will soon be playing this soundtrack on repeat. Six is an empowering, feel-good and energetic production, certainly worth seeing.
Underbelly, George Square
Aug 5-12, 14-27
Photo Credit: Idil Sukan