Review: Six at the Arts Theatre
Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Behead. Survived. And every night in London, they are live! The Queens behind that rhyme, Catherine of Aragon (Jarneia Richard-Noel), Anne Boleyn (Millie O'Connell), Jane Seymour (Natalie Paris), Anna of Cleves (Courtney Stapleton on the night I attended), Katherine Howard (Aimie Atkinson), and Catherine Parr (Maiya Quansah-Breed) are taking back control of their story in Six, the new musical from writing team Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. And in the process, they are proving that while some say history is written by the victors, it certainly doesn't need to be told by them.
While Six is defined by many as a musical, it matches a line from the show by truly being 'one of a kind, no category.' Framed as a competition, each of the queens tells the story of their marriage from their point of view and ask the audience to decide who had the worst time. Putting the plot aside, it is really a pop-inspired show that aims to provide a different perspective on these queens that separates them from their status as wives while giving them a voice to tell their own experiences.
From the very first song, you will know that Six is unlike anything else you've ever seen. "Ex-Wives" introduces us to each of the queens, and immediately changes their titles from wives to ex-wives. Following that, each queen is given the chance to tell their story in song. Marlow and Moss were inspired by different pop artists in creating each song, giving them their own individual voices.
Each queen has their moment to shine and they all prove that they can command the stage. And while each of them bring so much to the production in their individual numbers, Six truly is an ensemble piece. They all sing solos and sing backup, and eventually come together in the end of the show, proving that they cannot be defined by the one man they each happened to marry. And each of these queens are incredible in every sense of the word. Richard-Noel brings a strong sense of power and determination to the role of Aragon, while O'Connell shows a certain fragility from the teen-centric language in her role as Boleyn. Paris breaks hearts with her power ballad while Stapleton (one of the company's three alternates) brings a sense of fun to Cleves as she describes her divorced life in a castle. Atkinson shows a frailty underneath the brave and flirty Howard who was sexually abused from a young age, and Quansah-Breed brings a sense of honesty and empowerment to Parr all while leading the queens to come together.
What Maslow and Moss have created alongside the incredible creative team and spot-on cast is something that everyone involved can be incredibly proud of. And while it may be met with comparison to other historical musicals, it is unique it both the way it tells its story and its reason for doing so. At its core, it is a homegrown British musical that has captured the hearts and minds of many through its uniqueness and unbelievably impressive storytelling. Give a listen to this historemix, and I can promise you won’t regret it.