If you haven’t heard of SIX the musical, then you probably don’t have a drama-queen in your household.
The pop-inspired musical that is disrupting the genre and has been creating waves for the past two years has arrived in Salford with as much attitude, sass and side-eye as you could possibly want for Christmas – and they’ve thrown the usual formula out of the window.
No interval and no orchestra, for a start, and they’ve done away with anyone identifying as male on stage as well.
This is ‘her-story’ re-told in eighty minutes with a large dose of sarcasm and ‘woke-ness’ for the short-concentration levels of a Netflix generation and they are entirely unapologetic about it.
Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, SIX sees the six wives of Henry VIII take to the microphone to tell their own personal tales – competing to see which one had the hardest time as a miserable wife which – as two were beheaded – means the standard is pretty high.
‘Remember us from your GCSE’s?’
In the style of a talent competition, this is five hundred years of historical heartbreak mixed into an 80-minute celebration of 21st century girl power which is as refreshing as it is thought-provoking and uplifting.
From get-go the Queens raise the roof and it’s impossible to look away.
They are mesmerising as they tell their stories largely in song, the music and vocals taking inspiration from Lily Allen, from Beyonce, from Little Mix, from rap – it’s direct, confrontational and spiky with plenty of humour thrown in.
The music is already a hit – the row of young girls behind me sing along to every number – the songs have racked up 50 million streams and are adding 300,000 daily.
Ann Boleyn’s song ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head’ has been shared over half a billion times on the TIK TOK app.
It’s simply a sparkly-Tudor riot backed on stage by the all-female ( of course) band The Ladies in Waiting and an audience so engaged they scream and shout throughout.
The story itself hinges on a powerful moment when they ‘out’ the outdoing of each other with their traumatic tales.
Instead they start to own their stories, celebrating each other for their differences not their similarities and not simply for their relationship with one man who treated them cruelly.
It’s feminism, turned on its head, and questions the way we have documented history through the male gaze.
For me, Lauren Drew as Catherine of Aragon does a fair share of scene-stealing with a Beyonce-Shakira inspired performance with more side-eye than your teenage daughter.
‘Was married 24 years, I’m a paragon. Of royalty, my loyalty is to the vatican.’
Maddison Bulleyment plays a feisty Anne Boleyn.
‘Why did I lose my head? Well my sleeves may be green but lipstick’s red.’|
Lauren Byrne plays an Adele-inspired Jane Seymour.
‘I died, but I’m not what I seem’
Shekinah McFarlane has us in tears of laughter as Anna of Cleves, the German princess rejected for her looks.
‘I didn’t look as good as my profile pic .Funny how we all discuss that but not Henry’s little…’
Jodie Steele is a compelling Katherine Howard with an Ariana Grande, Britney Spears inspiration.
‘Lock up your husbands, lock up your sons, K-Howard is here and the fun’s begun.’
And alternate Harriet Watson as Catherine Parr was a suitably stoic survivor, who points out she was also a writer – as well as the one wife that made it.
‘I’m the survivor – Catherine Parr. And I bet you want to know how I got this far..’
You want to see this – it’s fantastic.
*SIX is at The Lowry over the Christmas season on an extended run until January 11 but will move across from the Quays Theatre to the Lyric theatre on Jan 7.
I attended the press night of SIX with tickets provided, but under no obligation.