Cambridge University Musical society hits Edinburgh to redefine the stories of Henry VIII’s six wives through a contemporary pop girl-band SiX. This original new musical, co-written by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow, delivers a brazen, glamorous and truly unforgettable history lesson. Direction from Jamie Armitage sees the six queens parade the stage in a theatrical concert of slick choreography and mind-blowing harmonies supported by an on-stage live band in a competition for ‘Leading Lady’ of the group. This ultimate prize is to be won by whichever queen suffered the most through her marriage with Henry VIII. As we are exposed to the forgotten pivotal moments of their lives we see Aragon, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard and Parr stake their claim to the title of Leading Lady by each telling her story through flawless solo performances backed by the rest of the ladies and the band.

Electricity and sass oozes from the group

The instrumental to each provocative and emotive song carries its own unique flavour and style to support the performers’ skilled and soulful voices reminiscent of Adele, Lady Gaga, and Beyoncé. Electricity and sass oozes from the group, treating the audience to tales that are both comedic and heartbreaking before a cleverly symbolic set of a dressmaker’s mannequin behind a design reminiscent of a cage. The memoirs of Jane Seymour (Holly Musgrave) and Katherine Howard (Annabel Marlow) are particularly memorable in their portrayal and understanding of the emotional struggles and unique experiences of these women. Confessions of Seymour’s unconditional love as a mother and Howard’s sexual objectification are relatable for modern audiences today.

There were a few moments where the lyrics were drowned out by the band, and it really was a shame to lose those. The storytelling moves rapidly in each number, and if you miss a line you miss a gag. A lack of stamina is apparent in places, where some undeniably powerful voices were struggling under the strain of the choreography, though this may have been down to nerves.

Although these women are defying their labels and the stereotypes attached to them by a patriarchally documented history, they are still bickering over who is the best looking, best loved by a man, or how many miscarriages they’ve had. They are united under a girl-power proclamation by the end, but I still feel we may be marginalising these women by restricting their theatrical personalities to cliché. Even so, SiX sing a strong feminist message, and they sing it well. 

Reviews by Isabella Javor

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The Blurb

Henry VIII’s six wives are back... performing as world-famous girl group SiX. Ripped from the pages of stuffy textbooks, this musical brings the sass and sparkle of history’s most misunderstood women: divorced, beheaded, live in concert!

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