Review: Musical 'Six' at Cheltenham Everyman

PUBLISHED: 16:53 28 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:53 28 January 2020

SIX (photo: Johan Persson)

SIX (photo: Johan Persson)

Johan Persson

Six, the musical, is one of the best things since 1509 says Katie Jarvis. It might not help with your GCSEs, but it will remind you not to marry an obese, murderous, ulcerated king

Look. You know me. I've always got plenty to say. (Or, as one of my weary children put it recently, 'Do you think you could only speak if you're not going to come out with absolute nonsense, please?')

But, before I launch into absolute nonsense…

OH MY GOSH! This is AMAZING! Six - the musical - is one of the best theatre experiences I've had since 1509 (to 1547). Truly, truly fabulous!

*************

So. (Background nonsense.)

I'm sitting in my seat at the Everyman, slightly unsure as to why I'm sitting in my seat at the Everyman. For a start, pretty much everyone in the audience around me is under 30. "OMG! I got a Pointless answer!" is one of the few pre-show conversations I get get.

They're mostly - but not exclusively - female and sassy: "So THEN I heard he'd moved in with his mistress." And taking selfies, wearing expressions once the exclusive preserve of Brigitte Bardot.

(I feel I've perhaps misjudged when I notice one singing along to the background soundtrack, which appears to be played on a spinet. Then I realise the spinet is performing Crazy In Love.)

SIX (photo: Johan Persson)SIX (photo: Johan Persson)

Ian, who is neither female nor under 30 *snigger* has researched Six - which, if you've not got out much recently, refers to Good King Hal's hapless wives - thoroughly. "Isn't this played by five women?" he ventures.

So, the thing is, I'm sceptical…

I'm sceptical, right up until 0.00001 seconds after the first note of the show zings through the theatre.

Then I'm HOOKED!

**************

This loud, hilarious, uproarious and - yes - moving show pitches Henry's wives, on stage together, competing as to which of them had the worst time. To be fair, the bar is set pretty high. When you've been decapitated (and that, of course, is not an exclusive boast), you've definitely got a head start.

But the point is: they've all had the worst time. Catherine of Aragon (Lauren Drew), sweet 16 when dragged over from Spain, knew it was the beginning of her end after spotting lipstick on Henry's ruff.

SIX (photo: Johan Persson)SIX (photo: Johan Persson)

Probably red lipstick. Probably Anne's (Maddison Bulleyment) (the one with the plan to steal the man. "Everybody chill; it's totes God's will").

Jane Seymour (Lauren Byrne) - the only one Henry loved (allegedly) - was separated from her new-born son by death. (Which is nothing like being separated from your head by death, as Anne points out.)

Anna of Cleves (Shekinah McFarlane), on the neg side, didn't look as good as her Tinder profile pic; on the pos, got the world's best/first prenup.

Then there's the least relevant Katherine (Howard; Jodie Steele); followed, finally, by C Parr (Athena Collins) ("I bet you wanna know how I got this far").

(Yes, Ian, that's six.)

The genius of writers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss goes beyond the fact that each queen belts out her grievances like Adele and Rihanna. Or that the show is a Netflix-generation perfect 70 minutes. Or that each queen has an Instagrammable character. Or that it's funny - hilarious - with lyrics to rival Rice.

… I'm a paragon/Of royalty, my loyalty is to the Vatican/So if you try to dump me you won't try that again…

And the audience loved it. Cheering, whooping all the way through; a standing ovation at the end.

But, you know what, fun aside, it left my world changed.

Look, I'm old. I can be snooty about selfies - you might have noticed; or, I dunno, The Young.

But here, on stage, were young women, enjoying their bodies; revelling in their power to use them to entertain; confident, loud, talented. In control.

And yet… Portraying women who were used, abused; at the whim of a bad and mad power-crazed king. As the least relevant Katherine graciously offers her thanks - "To all the powerful men who got me there" - (16 when she was married to gross 49YO Henry; 18 (probably) when she died) - I thought:

It's not perfect today. We might not be forced (on the whole) to marry obese, murderous, ulcerated Kings. However, Harvey Weinstein still exists. Prince Andrew won't testify.

But, my god, thank goodness young women - with their female band of amazing musicians - are on stage tonight, not a man in sight.

Six: Divorced * Beheaded * Live by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, at Cheltenham Everyman, Monday, January 27 - Saturday, February 1 (and coming back in October/November!)

The Everyman Theatre is at Regent Street, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1HQ, box office 01242 572573; www.everymantheatre.org.uk

The current Everyman run of Six is sold out; but you can book to see its return, on October 26-November 7

Visit sixthemusical.com

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