The cult musical continues to drag audiences from all over the country to its little castle on the high street of London’s West End. Guillermo Nazara reviews the media night of this show starring Henry VIII’s (mostly) ill-fated wives, to let us know if this is a production worth losing your head for.
Disappointments come in many shapes. Sometimes through that person that you thought would always there, but fate proves you wrong. Some others, through dreams that unexpectedly break at the moment they’re about to cross to the land of reality. In the theatre, most often, they arrive in the form of shows. From over hyped productions to new material one can’t help but wonder how somebody ever thought it would work with the public, the list of montages that have made it to the big stage should at least serve as encouragement (and consolation) for those aware of their lack of talent – that quality is not necessarily required to have a name (let alone, success) in this industry.
Originally created as fringe entertainment (debuting in Edinburgh’s famed festival back in 2017), SIX has rapidly created a considerable (though highly targeted) fandom through its journey around the UK and most recently London (it’s changed venues quite a few times in just a couple of years). The formula, that desired concept but usually unrealistic when it comes to the theatre, has, in this case, done its job properly, however: simple story, simple book (more of a concert script) and simple music. All easy to watch, listen to and, obviously and most importantly, remember. This is not a complex exploration of the trials and tribulations of six women trapped in a marriage that could only lead to doom and damnation – it’s basically six singers doing a royally themed pop gig.
Who had it worse? Who had it easier? Who’s to be crowned as queen of self-pity? There’s some relatability between the musical’s main theme and society’s toxicity of championing bad luck. Too much joy is not good to the eyes of others – especially for those who see it as a threat to their aimless comfort. But that’s as much as we will get storywise, apart from a light-hearted recount on how Henry married the six of them (one at a time, that is).
The definition of the musical theatre category has been blurred for decades now – Andrew Lloyd Webber perhaps being one of its main responsible through a show where felines dance and sing and sing and dance (but 20 years on the billboard surely must have shut a few mouths here and there). Yet, the experience of being told a proper plot, narrated flawlessly through a score, lyrics and dialogue is still (at least to many, I hope) the purpose of booking a ticket in the West End (or wherever the word is used for their advertising). SIX seems more like a creative assignment for History class: do a group report on Henry’s sweethearts (I don’t like spouse as a synonym) and present it in front of the class – you’re allowed to use sound and visuals. Well, somebody has been relishing on that appointment…
But theory and expectations apart, should we now answer the question and spare whoever is reading from any further anxiety or potential heart attacks? I’d love to enjoy myself more here but I’ve made a New Year’s resolution (got you there…). Anyway, here’s my response: it works nonetheless, to some extent. There are nights when all you may need is a good laugh and some clean entertaining fun just to move away from whatever is torturing your mind, and that’s what this production is a good option for. Though not the catchiest tunes I’ve heard recently, the music is incredibly amusing, also due to the fact that its cast, especially vocal wise, is quite high standard. Their chemistry and stage presence (demonstrating some competent confidence and a nice comedic ability, the latter mainly defended by Baylie Carson in the role of Anne Boleyn) explains the roars and cheers that poured through the venue during the entire performance.
SIX is not really a disappointing show but a show about disappointment. About those who wished to be loved but ended up with a life they had not even signed for. No matter the background, no matter the gender, too many of us have seen ourselves in that situation. At least, there’s still a chance to break free from it. With its display of outstanding singing rendition, effective visual design and, all in all, feel-good vibe, this may come as the musical which is not a musical, but you may probably enjoy if you like musicals. Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived. Well, I’m not filing for a lawsuit (yet) nor am I going crazy about it. But certainly, I can say that it’s nice that it’s alive.
All pictures credited to Pamela Raith.
SIX, The Musical plays at London’s Vaudeville Theatre from Tuesday to Sunday. Tickets are available on the following link.