Six The Musical

Feb 5 2020 | By More

★★★★☆  Royally good

Festival Theatre: Tue 4 – Sun 9 Feb 2020
Review by Martin Gray

You’ll lose your head over Six The Musical, which is bringing a new audience to the Festival Theatre just a week ahead of the show’s Broadway debut.

“Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived.”

Any doubts about Six being able to stand up as an actual theatre piece rather than the jolly good Fringe show it started out as vanish as the Queens chant the old mnemonic in the style of Chicago’s classic Cell Block Tango. You know, the one that starts: ‘Pop. Six. Squish. Uh uh. Cicero. Lipschitz.’

Maddison Bulleyment (Anne Boleyn), Lauren Byrne (Jane Seymour), Lauren Drew (Catherine of Aragon), Jodie Steele (Katherine Howard) and Athena Collins (Catherine Parr). Pic: Johan Persson

‘Six’? If that’s a coincidence, it’s a perfect one.

But the ladies in this show aren’t ‘merry murderesses’ on Death Row, they’re a murderer’s row of British history’s best-known queens.

How well do we really know Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr. Who lost their head over Henry VIII? Which one survived?

And who was the greatest of them all? As Harry Hill would say, there’s only one way to settle this – FIGHT! But the reincarnated ladies of the court don’t get physical, they sing out, vying for audience approval with the most heart-tending tale, the gutsiest vocals, the killer dance moves. We’re getting a pop consort…

space age twist

The stage is a dazzling display of light, while the costumes evoke Tudor styles, with a space age twist, as much Hot Gossip as Holbein.

Speaking of the painter, his work features in the show’s best number, Haus of Holbein, which tells the (disputed) tale of how it was his portrait of Anne of Cleves which persuaded Henry to wed her rather than Christina of Denmark.

Kat Bax on Bass, Jodie Steele as Katherine Howard, Lauren Byrne as Jane Seymour, Shekinah McFarlane as Anna of Cleves, Athena Collins as Catherine Parr, Maddison Bulleyment as Anne Boleyn, Frankie South on Guitar, Lauren Drew as Catherine of Aragon, Arlene McNaught as Musical Director/Keyboard

Kat Bax on Bass, Jodie Steele, Lauren Byrne, Shekinah McFarlane (Anna of Cleves), Athena Collins, Maddison Bulleyment, Frankie South on Guitar, Lauren Drew and Arlene McNaught (MD/Keys). Pic: Johan Persson

Bedecked in neon sunglasses and glowing ruffs, the ladies belt out a wonderfully cheesy, razor sharp number, backed by terrific house (palace?) band the Ladies in Waiting. Ladies and ladies, right there we have a Eurovision winner.

The number is followed by Anne’s solo – everyone gets a solo – Get Down, which likens the comparing of portraits with today’s Tinder swiping. It’s a clever idea, excellently staged.

elegantly laced

While I’m not particularly partial to a sad ballad – Jane Seymour’s Heart of Stone – I can’t claim there’s a bad song in the bunch. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ lyrics have wit to spare, historical fact is elegantly laced into the lines and the tunes are bangin’ (the majority of the bonkers enthusiastic audience was at least two generations younger than the typical Edinburgh crowd, so this review chooses to, er, get down with the kids).

Lauren Drew, Kat Bax on Bass, Maddison Bulleyment, Lauren Byrne, Athena Collins, Shekinah McFarlane, Frankie South on Guitar, Jodie Steele and Arlene McNaught (MD/Keys). Pic: Johan Persson

The chat in between the songs – and this really is mostly songs, nine of ‘em plus the delightfully titled Megasix – is equally entertaining, with a running gag about Anne Boleyn’s fate being especially fun, always appropriate and superbly delivered by Maddison Bulleyment.

She has a heck of a voice too, a facility she shares with fellow queens Lauren Drew, Shekinah McFarlane, Lauren Byrne, Athena Collins and Jodie Steele; but they don’t all have the same voice, with each using their instrument differently, but always perfectly. And when they sing together, they send warmth up the spine (is that a thing? If not, it really ought to be…).

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille choreographs while writer Moss co-directs with Jamie Armitage and they’ve done a fine job, drilling their players into a convincing girl group, different personalities evident but with a unified spirit that makes them truly formidable.

It’s the Queens’ final coming together that underlines the show’s message that while we remember the Six Wives of Henry VIII because there were six, they weren’t purely victims of the patriarchy, they were individuals with their own stories and, often, agency.

And in Six they reclaim their tales’ showbiz pizzazz, with an awful lot of heart and enough energy to light Hampton Court for 500 years.

Running time: One hour and 15 minutes (no interval)
Festival Theatre 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT. Phone booking: 0131 529 6000
Tuesday 4 – Sunday 9 February 2020
Tue – Thurs & Sat: 8pm; Fri 6pm & 8.30pm; Matinees Sat 2.30pm & Sun 2pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Six on tour:
4 – 9 Feb Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
11 – 15 Feb Aylesbury
Waterside Theatre
0844 871 7607 Book online
18 – 23 Feb Bath
Theatre Royal
01225 448844 Book online
3 – 7 Mar Liverpool
Playhouse Theatre
0151 709 4776 Book online
10 – 14 Mar Wolverhampton
Grand Theatre
01902 42 92 12 Book online
17 – 21 Mar Brighton
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650 Book online
24 – 29 Mar Nottingham
Theatre Royal
0115 989 5555 Book online
31 Mar – 05 Apr Bromley
Churchill Theatre
020 3285 6000 Book online
07 – 12 Apr Southend
Cliffs Pavilion
01702 351135 Book online
21 – 25 Apr Mold
Theatr Clwyd
01352 344101 Book online
28 Apr – 02 May Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online
05 – 10 May Dublin
Bord Gais Energy Theatre
+353 (1) 677 7999 Book online
13 – 17 May Hull
New Theatre
01482 300 306 Book online
19 – 24 May Canterbury
Marlowe Theatre
01227 787787 Book online
27 – 31 May Plymouth
Theatre Royal
01752 267222 Book online
2 – 7 Jun Coventry
Belgrade Theatre
024 7655 3055 Book online
9 – 14 Jun Leicester
Curve Theatre
0116 242 3595 Book online
16 – 20 Jun Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
22 – 27 Jun Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 11 21 21 Book online
1 – 5 Jul Southampton
Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811 Book online
7 – 11 Jul Bristol
Hippodrome Theatre
0844 871 3012 Book online
14 – 19 Jul Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 Book online
21 – 25 Jul Birmingham
0844 338 5000 Book online
26 Oct – 7 Nov Cheltenham
Everyman Theatre
01242 572573 Book online

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