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Theatre Review: SIX @ Norwich Playhouse


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SIX is the latest show from award winning duo Marlow and Moss, who have brought the show to Norwich for the start of its national tour, following its performances last year at the Arts Theatre in London.

The cast of the show outside the Maid's Head Hotel in Norwich

Before seeing the show I’d only heard ‘Ex wives’, the opening song from the show that had been released during its stay at the Arts Theatre. Having now seen the whole thing, I’m desperate for a cast recording. Whilst ‘Ex wives’ isn’t personally my sort of thing, each of the queens’ songs were fantastic, with witty wordplay, apt modernisms and addictive beats. Like Hamilton, there’s a song for everyone within the show, with tracks inspired by all sorts of pop and R&B.

Catherine Howard’s song gave off Ariana Grande vibes, with her extreme high ponytail and girlish affectations, whilst Anne Boleyn’s characterisation seemed like a mix of Baby Spice and Lily Allen. There were moments of Whitney Houston and Nicki Minaj scattered throughout, and plenty of genre switches, leading to a rich musical density.

‘No Way’, Catherine of Aragon’s energetic number, was wonderfully performed by Jarneia Richard-Noel, and when its catchy riffs came back in closing track ‘Six’ I found myself singing along under my breath. ‘Don't Lose Ur Head’, Anne Boleyn (Millie O’Connell)’s solo, grew on me during its runtime, so whilst it was initially obnoxious I found myself appreciating it by the end. Each song told the historically true story of their respective queens, cleverly involving the facts whilst modernising and adding personality.

‘Heart of Stone’ was Jane Seymour (Natalie Paris)’s chance to sing her heart out, featuring beautiful lyricism. I particularly liked the “unbreakable/unshakable” rhyme during the chorus, and how the song built to a climax that made it more than just the slow ballad of the piece. Anne of Cleves (Alexia McIntosh)’s brag rap began with a riff on house music, with the girls donning glow in the dark collars and chanting 'Haus of Holbein'.

Catherine Howard’s song allowed Aimie Atkinson to show off the subtlety of her acting, as her delivery of the chorus changed ever so slightly with each repetition. Everything culminated with Maiya Quansah-Breed as Catherine Parr, whose number ‘I don’t need your love’ brought all the queens together to join in with a reprise, singing  ‘we don’t need your love’.

This last song cast aside my worries for the production, as the premise initially caused concerns. The opening informed the audience that the show acted as a competition over who had it worse during their life, and a lot of the dialogue between songs involved catty asides and arguments. For a musical supposedly rewriting history with a feminist spin, how does pitting each queen against each other prove anything?

But the characters became self-aware by the last stretch, asking these questions aloud. If they’ve been confined in history by the label of “ex-wives”, why are they agreeing with it? The musical concluded satisfyingly with the song ‘Six’, now released on YouTube, in which the queens reimagine better lives for themselves, after all this is their show, and I can’t think of a better way to end.

This musical isn’t one to miss, especially if you’re a kid who grew up with Horrible Histories. The wordplay is quick, the music masterfully composed (and played by onstage musicians) and the lighting is fabulous. If you get a chance to see SIX whilst it’s on tour, I thoroughly recommend that you do.

After its Norwich run, SIX will play at London's Arts Theatre from 30th August to 14th October. You can find tickets here

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