Tag Archives: Toby Marlow

“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

www.sixthemusical.com

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

www.sixthemusical.com

Photo by Idil Sukan/Draw HQ