Tag Archives: Toby Marlow

“Six” at the Vaudeville Theatre

A theatrical phenomenon and worldwide hit, this musical by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss goes from strength to strength. OK, I didn’t see the premiere at the Edinburgh Festival, but I did rave about its take on history and its excellent songs as soon as it got to London. Now, new cast members take on the crowns of Henry VIII’s wives to tell their story in inimitable style.

The show uses our knowledge that the queens were variously divorced and beheaded or died, but imagines them reunited as a pop group. How’s that for an excuse for great songs and a fantastic atmosphere! With modern sensibilities and humour (the lyrics and script are very funny) a mock competition sets the queens against one another.

It isn’t really a contest – that turns out to be an important point. And one of the show’s many joys is to see the ensemble work so well together while pretending to pit themselves against each other. This six are a great group – sharing emotion and, above all, fun. Despite them working in harmony musically, we still get six distinct characters, which is also important: Six is about the women rather than the man they were married to.

In chronological order, there is a lot of praise to bestow. Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky plays the first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and sounds amazing. Baylie Carson takes the part of Anne Boleyn and proves to be the show’s clown, getting a laugh with every line. There’s Jane Seymour’s ballad next, belted out by Claudia Kariukias in fine style. Dionne Ward-Anderson is Anna of Cleves – a commanding role that whips up the crowd. Koko Basigara as Katherine Howard has (arguably) the best number, ‘All You Wanna Do’, which showcases Marlow and Moss’s talents superbly. Finally, Roxanne Couch’s Catherine Parr guides much of the action and sounds superb.

There can be no higher praise than to say this cast does Six justice – the show really is that good. While the direction from Moss and Jamie Armitage is robust, and the choreography from Carrie-Anne Ingrouille strong, the performers bring high energy and strong comedy skills that prove a clear appreciation of the show’s intelligent humour. Six is my go-to recommendation not just for those who love musicals but anyone who likes a good show. Long may these queens reign on the Strand.

Until 29 October 2023


Photo by Pamela Raith

“Six” at the Vaudeville Theatre

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ brilliant show is the kind of hit that warms the heart. From the Edinburgh Fringe to Broadway and now a new West End home, this musical ‘herstory’ of Henry VIII’s wives deserves its success. No excuse is needed to see it again (and again).

Let’s start with the performers. Pitting the queens against one another isn’t the spirit of Six – that’s one of many clever twists. And they are all fantastic. 

Suffice to say Jarnéia Richard-Noel sets the tone of the show perfectly with the first solo number. Hana Stewart’s Catherine Parr guides the show. Sophie Isaacs expertly handles the hardest number, for Katherine Howard, where Marlow and Moss change the emotional tone to make us think again about all those sexy pop songs. 

Make no mistake – there are six stars here. Collette Guitart (understudying on the night and the show’s talented Dance Captain) brings big emotion to her ballad – a huge achievement given how funny the show is. And Cherelle Jay shows herself as a delightful natural comedian as Anne Boleyn. Alexia McIntosh really has the funniest role, as Anne of Cleves. It is a joy to see a performer so in control of the room: McIntosh doesn’t just have the audience in the palm of her hand – she makes them happy to be there.

Alexia McIntosh in Six credit Pamela Raith
Alexia McIntosh

The mock rivalry between the Queens is thought-provoking and a neat commentary on celebrity culture. Underneath, they all bond, emotionally and as singers, to fantastic result. Best of all, the cast seems to be having as much fun as the audience. And that’s saying something.

I did a disservice to the score at my first encounter. The music has far more references than the Spice Girls. And if I’m still not up to speed with exactly who inspires each queen, this short show has more hits than much longer musicals. It is a faultless collection of songs.

There’s an intelligence and sharp humour to Six that is not to be underrated. The importance of telling the story of the ‘divorced, beheaded and died’ from their own perspective belies how many laughs there are. Add a touch of fantasy as the ex-wives are represented as popstars and you get real magic. Long may this show reign.

Until 1 May 2022


Photo by Pamela Raith

“Six” at the Arts Theatre

The so-bonkers-it’s-brilliant idea of Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss is to resurrect the wives of Henry VIII as a Spice Girls-style pop group in concert. The show’s hit status on the Edinburgh fringe and transfer to London as part of a tour confirms the concept’s appeal for many. And, if it sounds like a bad premise to you, trust me, think again and go.

From the start, a performance worthy of a crown from Jarneia Richard-Noel as Catherine of Aragon, with a Spanish beat, of course, will have you hooked. There’s a funny turn from Alexia McIntosh as a blingy Anne of Cleves and soulful sounds from Maiya Quansah-Breed to revel in. Marlow and Moss take pop seriously. And even if you find the music simplistic and derivative (yes, there is a riff on Greensleeves), it is effective and shockingly catchy.

The lyrics are sharp, smart and pun-packed. Getting the word ‘annulment’ in a song deserves a salute, making a rhyme for Leviticus requires a full genuflection in homage. The mismatch of history and contemporary references gets laughs from start to finish – the House of Holbein techno number had me in stiches. But note: the song for Katherine Howard, performed with gusto by Aimie Atkinson, tells a tale in text-book musical theatre style. Marlow and Moss really know what they are doing.

As well as the concert format, which clearly enthused the many teens in the audience, there’s another framing device used to ‘overthrow’ history as we know it. While the music is Eurovision, the idea is of a tasteless X Factor-style competition over which Queen should be favourite. And shame on me, I fell for it! As is stated, we all have our favourite, so the lovely ballad for Jane Seymour, beautifully performed by Natalie Paris, seems a naive view of the character. And a ditsy Anne Boleyn, while made nice and spikey by Millie O’Connell, surely doesn’t really do justice to Henry’s most political spouse?

Of course, the twist is that ranking victimhood is part of the problem and isn’t a game anyone wins. That Marlow and Moss use their remix of history to make a point so relevant to the present is their crowning achievement. Introducing some fantasy for a finale means the show ends jubilantly, as well as reminding us that these women’s lives were not happy. Add this intelligence to a score and sense of humour that show such promise and Six becomes very exciting indeed. There isn’t a bad song here and they crowd the mind to be recalled – surely the best thing you can say about any musical. This trip to the past shows an exciting future for its creative team.

Until 23 September


Photo by Idil Sukan/Draw HQ