REVIEW: SIX (Arts Theatre) ★★★

The audacious and historic musical, SIX, was originally conceived by writers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss at Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society. The pair took the production to Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017, where it was met with gracious reviews and nominated for the inaugural Musical Theatre Review Best Musical Award. The show is now playing at the perfectly centralised, Arts Theatre for their London premiere. SIX takes a modern day look at the well known history of womaniser Henry VIII’s wives and their prospective fates: Divorced, beheaded, died or (for the lucky one) survived.

The set is non-existent which is presumably down to the sporadic nature of this run – only 4 performances spanning a couple of weeks. The band are on stage but besides this, the aesthetic speaks nothing of what is to come. The six girls enter with an impact in the opening high-energy number ‘Ex-Wives’. All the singers’ voices are gloriously strong and it is certainly a treat to hear them belt out well-composed harmonies.

From the start, the content, both musical and script, are extremely hit or miss. The script is spread thinly across all six girls and demands the audience’s focus to constantly dart from character to character. The book concentrates on one-liners and is met with mixed reactions. Lines such as ‘Who knew some men hired women to take advantage of them in their quarters. It was different times back then.’ were a hit and sent ripples of hilarity through the audience. However, intermittent technical issues meant some dialogue was obscured or lost and other dialogue was delivered too quickly to grasp.

Choreographer Cressida Carré keeps the girls moving constantly throughout the piece with fairly predictable chorus moves from shaking their hips to rolling their heads. However, despite being performed in sync, a sense of ensemble feels absent during dances, leaving the performance to appear unpolished. Perhaps each actress was directed to perform the choreography in their prospective characters. However, it seems to detach them from this unit of a ‘girlband’ which they claim to be. The girls look more comfortable dancing when they have no choreography to follow in ‘House of Hans’.

‘All You Wanna Do’ performed by Aimie Atkinson and ‘Get Down’ (Genesis Lynea) are particular highlights and cement the show in unadulterated fun. ‘Heart of Stone’ performed by Natalie Paris is sung with delicacy and control. However its balladic nature creates an immediate tonal shift from comical to serious in the space of a few seconds. This leaves the audience feeling slightly uncomfortable and the song, performed statically into a stand up microphone, feel comparatively boring. Each song, however, certainly stands out from the last and gives every character their own energetic identity.

It is not until the end, where the slightly ambiguous plot is resolved, do we get a sense of the girls’ chemistry and the real guts of the show. A feminist angle, if a little vague, is introduced and celebrated. The final 10-minute remix extravaganza is spotlessly feel-good and indulges us once again in the power behind the beautiful combined vocals. SIX is a musical with great potential. It is certainly entertaining and educational, if at times, a little dysfunctional, and as Hamilton has proved, we all love a musical history lesson.

Reviewed by Nicole Darvill-Batten

Photo: Josh Bird

REVIEW: Six the musical (Edinburgh 2017) ★★★★


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