Photo: Pamela Raith

Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss’ hit show about the six wives of Henry VIII has arrived at London’s Vaudeville Theatre, its new permanent home.

SIX is quite a remarkable success story – originally a student production at the Edinburgh Fringe, it has now become a staple on London’s West End, toured the UK and has even opened on Broadway. Over the course of 70 minutes it tells us the stories of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr; each is afforded a solo moment, and the show is bookended by group numbers. It is – in pop concert form – an intriguing consideration of six women who have sadly been reduced to mere footnotes in history; if they were given the chance to speak, what would they say?

It’s a solid concept for a show, and it’s really not hard to understand why its popularity has endured – frankly, the songs are excellent. Don’t Lose Ur Head is an early highlight; Heart of Stone provides poignancy and a surprising amount of depth midway through; and Get Down is an absolute treat, full of brilliant punchlines. Lyrically they’re superb and yet manage to function as catchy pop numbers too. The cast has changed a fair bit since we last caught SIX, but are just as strong – each has a superb singing voice and is memorable in their own way. The backing band sounds great.

For all the praise we’re heaping on the show, we couldn’t escape the feeling that the new venue doesn’t feel like the perfect fit for a production like this. When we caught SIX at the Arts Theatre a couple of years ago, the atmosphere was absolutely electric – it felt like one of the most exciting, life-affirming musical experiences we’d ever been to. In its new setting, everything felt a bit muted in comparison. Perhaps the show just needs some time to bed in, but for all the quality on stage and the cleverness of the writing, it just didn’t feel urgent or exciting.

We’d be intrigued to see how the show is faring in a couple of months’ time – of course SIX remains the same superb show it has been for years. For those who’ve not seen the musical before it’s absolutely worth checking out, but if you’re planning a return visit it may be worth allowing some time for it to adapt to its new surroundings.

GAY TIMES gives SIX – 4/5

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