There’s relationship drama, there’s gorgeous women, and there’s a whole lot of glitter. Reality TV? No, it’s the Tudors. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ writing is the kind of genius you can’t help but love. Six is clever, witty, and empowering to boot, with a new cast of queens ticking all the boxes and hitting all the high notes.
It’s an absolute gem of a show, and has deservedly gained a lot of popularity since its first showing at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017. Six provides a selection of undeniable bangers combined with high-energy choreography, which this new cast delivers with absolute delight. The format is such that the spotlight is shared equally between the stars, and it was a real treat to have six strong vocalists showcased and given their moment. The use of a talented all-female band – cleverly named the Ladies in Waiting – made me realise I had never even considered the gender balance of theatre musicians before.
The production has developed effectively from its original fringe origins to this larger West End stage; it retains audience interaction and quick jibes, but the concert-style format allows it to fill a whole theatre. There are quips aplenty, however the balance between laughter, music, and story progression is solidly maintained, leaving not a dull moment.
Gabriella Slade‘s costume design deserves heavy praise: as a lover of all that glitters, I was taken from the moment the queens stepped on stage, and before the remarkable attention to detail became truly apparent. Anne Boleyn (Baylie Carson) wears literal green sleeves, the later wives wear their roman numerals as earrings, and Catherine Parr’s (Roxanne Couch) sleeves puff up into crown shapes. Possibly the biggest cheer of the night went to Anne of Cleves’ (Dionne Ward-Anderson) spicy red bodysuit, and the luminous ruffs of the neon rave House of Holbein get my seal of approval. This use of costume is both visually highly impressive and wonderfully thoughtful.
The show moves confidently between levels of emotion, from silliness to sincerity, keeping things fun but not farcical. There is not a moment in which a single cast member fades into the background or pauses from emoting at the stories unfolding before them, be they sexy or slaughterous. Six is a cabaret of different genres and affectations packed into a relatively short runtime; the cast members are clearly proud to be taking this stage, giving their performances a feeling of sincerity. Towards the end of the story there is a shift in tone from silliness and bickering to a sense of gravity about the six wives’ fates, culminating in a celebration of their (albeit slightly reimagined) individuality. It is difficult to fault such a strong ratio of puns to feminist history!
Six is relentlessly funny and makes combining history and glamour on stage look easy. We are also reminded that these characters were living women, pulling them from the clutches of a patriarchal narrative. This new cast refreshes and revitalises an already impressive show, keeping the crown when it comes to female-centric perceptions of history. Technically strong and flawlessly performed, this production is definitely one for the history books.
Written by: Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
Directed by: Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage
Six plays at Vaudeville Theatre and is currently booking until 29 October 2023. Further information and bookings can be found here.