Shiny, loud, subversive: Six is the must-see show of the summer

The Studio, Sydney Opera House

For almost 500 years Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr have been support roles, Henry VIII’s plus ones, with fates reduced to a schoolboy rhyme, ‘Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived'. Now, in Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’s explosive remix the queens take centre stage. In fact, they don’t just take it. They own it.

This show, with its all-Australian cast, is one of seven productions currently touring worldwide of a show which started life on the Edinburgh Fringe barely two years ago. Six runs as a tight, 75 minute set in the Opera House’s smallest venue, the Studio. An on stage four piece band – women, naturally – accompanies the six queens, with a floor to ceiling lighting rig (Tim Deiling / Jason Fripp) as backdrop, dazzling tudor-meets-techno costumes (Gabriella Slade / Nigel Shaw) and dynamite choreography (Carrie-Anne Ingrouille).

Six is not so much a musical as a pop concert with a story. Each queen gets the chance to tell her own version – her-story – in what becomes a six-way sing off for the dubious honour of most badly-done-by royal spouse. Competition is tight. Would you rather be rejected, humiliated or beheaded? Yes, OK, Boleyn and Howard do rather claim the advantage. But the beauty of this show is the way it presents six genuinely three-dimensional characters, not only with their signature moves and cheeky backchat, but also with an emotional depth and historical context, the poignancy of which may catch you by surprise.

It’s an ensemble piece, but every queen shines, individually. Chloe Zuel sets the bar high as a tough and sassy Aragon, while Kala Gare brings a ditzy twang to Boleyn’s number, Don’t lose ur head. Loren Hunter ups the emotion as Seymour, while Kiana Daniele is an irresistibly unapologetic Cleves. Courtney Monsma’s Howard is simultaneously sexy and devastating as she channels her inner Britney, and Vidya Makan, as Parr, binds the show together with a last minute burst of vocal power.

Six is shiny and loud and fast and funny, with great songs, but the real kicker is that its glittery wrapping unfurls to reveal a deliciously subversive alternative to the history books. I’m calling it now. This is the must see show of the summer.

Six runs in Sydney until March 5, then tours to Melbourne in April and Adelaide in June 2020.

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