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Henry VIII's wives tell their tales in this Olivier-nominated musical
Photo by Idil Sukan
Oxford Playhouse, Mon 18 November - Sat 23 November 2019

November 19, 2019
This fresh and feisty history romp had the feel of an instant cult classic

I kept hearing about Six. A tweet, an insta post, someone mentioning it as the musical they next wanted to see, but so much about it passed me by, and this absolute delight caught me unawares, with no idea of what to expect. That was a pretty nice way to see it, to be fair. If you’re willing to trust me on this, just book one of the last few tickets now and treat yourself to a surprise (Sadly the show is now sold out but you never know, there may be one or two returns! - Ed.). If not…

What to expect is that this is a pop concert performed by a girl group composing Henry VIII’s six wives. They strut onto the stage, all-female live band behind them, and announce that during the course of the evening they’ll each be singing a song to demonstrate how much the king had wronged them. The winner will be crowned the leader of the band, presumably for future pop concerts.

The songs are, lyrically, melodically and in terms of performance, absolute bangers. This is a joyful pastiche of contemporary pop, with a load of jokes to keep history nerds happy. The production elements were all absolutely spot on - the costume, the set, the simple but pleasing choreography were all great. Picking a favourite performer from this incredibly strong ensemble seems mean, but I will say that I absolutely loved the casual Kate Nash style swagger of Maddison Bulleyment as Anne Boleyn.

The scale at which this show has grown in truly astonishing. Two years ago, it was a student show at the Edinburgh Fringe; now, it’s on its second UK tour after a West End run. It was nominated for five Olivier Awards. I have worked more than ten Fringe runs over the years and I am telling you - this is mind-blowing. (Yes, yes, Fleabag, but Phoebe Waller Bridge was at RADA eight years before that run...) Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow were still students when they wrote this. They weren’t even studying music.

The only time this incredibly strong performance swayed slightly was towards the end, where there were a few lines and ideas that fell flat as the show was steered towards its conclusion. This is a small quibble in what was overall a really astonishingly enjoyable new musical. The standing ovation the sold-out crowd gave the show was absolutely well deserved. Marlow and Moss are undeniably huge new voices in British musical theatre - go and see Six now so you have bragging rights when they are deservedly far more famous than Andrew Lloyd Webber.

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