A pop song musical about the six wives of Henry the Eighth is not, at first glance, something you’d think would necessarily work. Yet as the Fringe is apt to do, this odd concept is taken and transformed into a wonderfully weird and spectacular show that defied my expectation to be one of the most stunning performances I have seen all Festival.
One of the most stunning performances I have seen all festival
Six concerns itself with the lives of the wives of the infamous Henry the Eighth, as we in the audience are invited to their live stage concert to judge which one had the worst time living with their brutish and violent husband. Through a series of stunning pop numbers each is given a chance to take the spotlight and tell their version of events. A show like this lives or dies on the strength of its performers. Without someone to channel the energy, vibrancy and sheer star power of a pop diva, the music would simply fall flat. Here there is no fear to be had, as every one of the six women absolutely knocked it out of the park. It is rare to find a musical where every song and every performer stands on their own two feet but despite my attempts to find a weak link there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. This is partly achieved by songwriters Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ decision to channel a different genre or pop style in each queen, with Anne Boleyn charming the audience with her Lily Allen-style airhead flirtations whilst Jane Seymour serenade them with a soulful longing filled power ballad. This helps keep every number fresh and interesting to the audience, and lets each performer shine in their own way. A particular standout was Alexia McIntosh’s portrayal of a Eurotrash Anne of Cleves, whose brash, braggadocious and swagger-filled song celebrating the joys of divorced life left me dancing in my seat with joy.
What, however, really impressed me about the show was its ability to transcend simple easy entertainment and actually interrogate its own premises. Initially I felt the show suffered from an overreliance on the tired cliche of the catty, backstabbing, and envious group of female performers, yet as the show progresses we see each performer gain perspective on their own experiences. By the play's end both the characters and by extension the audience, question and attempt to transcend their place in history that they have been put in against their will, which demonstrates a depth that I honestly hadn’t expected to be there but was incredibly happy to see.
Six, therefore, is a rare musical that channels an undeniable playfulness and fun in its premise yet still finds a way to discuss interesting and worthwhile historical themes, all whilst still being a hilarious and energetic night out.