• Cat_writes

Divorced, Beheaded, Died...

A couple of weeks ago I took my 9-year-old son to see Six, the musical about the wives of Henry VIII reimagined as a 21st-century pop band. Over the course of a packed hour-and-a-quarter (no interval) this show portrays their journey from bitching among themselves about who got the rawest deal as a wife, to reaching the conclusion that actually, the reason Hezza is still so famous today is most likely down to the six of them and their misrepresented his-stories.


The general vibe and energy of each queen is inspired not so much by historical accuracy (this show is light on that) but by which pop princess their song and story is most aligned with. It's a clever premise, at once attracting an audience unlikely to have much crossover with the viewers of the average David Starkey documentary, and bringing the show into the present day with a prescient reminder of how far women, even famous women, still have to go to truly be the mistresses of their own stories - especially if they cross paths with a powerful man.


Anne Boleyn has long been my 'favourite' queen but I found it hard to reconcile her famously calculating intellect with the flippant 'Don't lose Ur Head ', in which Anne seems to shrug off her part in causing the divorce of Catherine of Aragon and the disinheriting of her daughter, not to mention the small matter of splitting of the Church from Rome. It's impossible not to get swept away by the sheer joy of Anne of Cleves' riotous joy at being 'Queen of my castle' - rejecting the shame of being deemed not pretty enough for Henry by highlighting all she gained from her divorce - a castle, servants and lifelong luxury, all without spending any time with Henry. I think we know who the winner is here.


Though it's one of the catchiest numbers, there's a real poignancy to Katherine Howard's number, 'All you wanna do'. With Queenspiration from Britney Spears and Ariane Grande, she perfectly encapsulates the way that women are both revered and punished for youth and beauty, becoming visibly more weary and cynical as she sings through verse after verse about the men who have used, abused and finally killed her.


It's her successor, Catherine Parr, who sings 'I don't need your love' - the only queen to be genuinely reluctant to marry Henry, and by this stage in history, who can blame her? Her story unifies the six wives, who come together for the brilliant final number 'Six'.


I saw the show in 2019 at a much smaller theatre, but it's now at the Vaudeville. I was slightly worried about what my son's reaction would be, as I think he had intuited that there was an educational element to this trip, but he was gripped all the way through and dancing beside me during the final number. With a sort of Horrible Histories-level storyline and 90s/2000s-pop musical vibe, we managed to hit on a show that's perfect for a forty-something mum and a primary-school aged boy to have some quality time together.


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