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SIX the Musical at the Vaudeville Theatre, London

Claudia Kariuki as Jane Seymour in SIX the Musical. Photography credit - Pamela Raith.
Claudia Kariuki as Jane Seymour in SIX the Musical. Photography credit – Pamela Raith.

I am sometimes asked if I’ve seen something at the Edinburgh Fringe that went on to become a success elsewhere, and the default answer is Six. It was the talk of the Fringe in 2018, and having taken one of the largest Fringe venues, such was its success there that, if I recall correctly, they had sold out by the time I filed my review. They added extra matinees, and they sold out too. It is, truth be told, a lot of fun, and with the rising cost of living at the time of writing as well as miscellaneous other problems in the world, even more than usual, it’s the sort of feelgood and high-octane production that is very much needed to lift one’s spirits and leave the theatre having had a good time.

Like almost any success, it has its detractors. For some, the show seems to let Henry VIII (1491-1547) off too lightly, given his instructions throughout his thirty-six year reign to have tens of thousands of people executed, including, as the show repeatedly points out, two of his wives. Others are bemused by what they see as historical inaccuracies, though in the musical’s defence, it’s made clear that the postscript is a series of alternative storylines, because the actual ones can’t, by any stretch of the imagination, pass muster as musical theatre happy endings.

But in many ways, and for much of the evening, the story is told, at least to my mind, more or less as it was – if ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’ is a spoiler (those words are in capital letters in the show’s programme), so be it. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ lyrics occasionally try a little too hard to make contemporary references: Anne of Cleves (1540-1557) (Dionne Ward-Anderson) didn’t look like her “profile picture”, and Anne Boleyn (birth date disputed, died 1536) (Baylie Carson) sang something about Pret A Manger (yes, really). Carson’s Boleyn gloriously retains the actor’s natural Australian accent, and all of the wives engage wonderfully with the audience in this musical / concert hybrid.

Having resisted calls to substantially lengthen the show for some years, Six proves it is entirely possible to have a one-act show that people will come to, and return to, without having to present it as a double-bill with another short show. Ironically, at the Fringe, it was one of the longest shows – at seventy-five minutes (it’s eighty minutes now), there were walkouts after an hour, not because people didn’t like the show, but because most Fringe shows are an hour long, or even shorter, and some patrons hadn’t realised this one ran a bit longer, and had another show to dash off to.

Paul Gatehouse’s sound design is exquisite – when the musical numbers come into their own, it’s easy to lose oneself in the moment. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought I was at a concert, and yet, the music is never too loud, and in moments of spoken dialogue, the feeling of being at the theatre comes back instantly. Fun, with a capital F, this unique experience is evidently going to run and run (and run), and it’s a delight to return to this show and report back that it continues to go from strength to strength.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

WINNER OF TWO 2022 TONY AWARDS!
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE & BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Think you know the six Wives of Henry VIII? Think again…

The crowning glory of the West End, Broadway and beyond, history is about to get over-throne in the homegrown hit musical sensation, SIX, live at the Vaudeville Theatre.

Created by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, prepare to lose your head and experience the Tudor Wives’ lives as they turn back the clock and take to the stage to reclaim their crowns and retell their stories of love, loss and the infamous ex they all have in common.

Join Aragon, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard and Parr, backed by their fiercely all-female band, the Ladies in Waiting, and Get Down to a royal retelling of the sassiest story in British Her-story.

SIX Tickets
Vaudeville Theatre, London

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