A true home-grown sensation, Six has gone from strength to strength, with a Broadway run and Australian tour currently playing. Having started at the Edinburgh Fringe, its word of mouth success has led it to it reigning supreme at the Vaudeville Theatre.
Six tells the story of the wives of Henry VIII – nowadays most readily associated with the mnemonic rhyme describing their fates. The show challenges us to realise how little we really know about these women beyond being players in a more famous man’s story, and seeks to set that right. The result is a breezy 80-minute musical styled like a pop concert. The music, by show creators Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow is a delightful selection of pop-literate bangers, unafraid to twist the knife with a heartrending ballad or dark turn when called for.
As the wives each get their moment in the spotlight, the show achieves what GCSE History never could, and unearths distinct narratives and personalities. Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky brings a diva sensibility to Catherine of Aragon, Baylie Carson makes their mark as a quirky Aussie-accented Anne Boleyn (it works!), Claudia Kariuki gives wings to the show’s Adele-style ballad, Dionne-Ward Anderson knocks the show’s most fun number into outer space and almost walks away with the whole thing, Koko Basigara’s Kiss Kiss-style pop number gets darker with each chorus, and Roxanne Couch’s contemplative Catherine Parr gives us food for thought as the women contemplate their destinies. Music is supplied by the Ladies-In-Waiting, the all-female onstage band who can handle any musical riff thrown at them, from Survivor by Destiny’s Child to Greensleeves, by…. someone else.
We are very much in the realm of fantasy here – from Gabriella Slade’s gravity-defying unconventional material costumes, to the clever light-based set by Emma Bailey. There is a tacit admission at the end that a happy ending isn’t possible, based on the facts about these women as we know them, so they’ll have to invent their own. A cop-out, sure, but as the show itself says, this isn’t a history lesson, it’s her-story.