(seen at the afternoon performance on 20th June 2022)
A truly one-of-a-kind, no category event. Not only were the original London cast members Jarnéia Richard-Noel (Catherine of Aragon), Millie O’Connell (Anne Boleyn), Natalie Paris (Jane Seymour), Alexia McIntosh (Anna of Cleves), Aimie Atkinson (Katherine Howard) and Maiya Quansah-Breed (Catherine Parr) reunited, but the whole thing took place in the courtyard of Hampton Court Palace, where many of the wives herstories unfolded.
The excitement really began on the Hogwarts, sorry, Hampton Court Express from Waterloo. The 13.06 was a sea of “Six” t-shirts and costumed fans, the arrival lines from platform to ticket-barrier endless but good-natured - musical theatre aficionados could teach football fans a thing or two.
Usually seen in the confines of the Vaudeville Theatre, only slightly bigger than the Arts but in fairness considerably larger than the Edinburgh hotel room where the show began life, this is the first time the entire show has been seen on a stadium sized stage. Sure, “West End Live” and The Royal Variety Performance are large platforms, but they only got a sample of what the Queendom has to offer.
The excellent news is that this show can fill not only a massive stage mostly used for pop concerts, but that the music and wit bounce off the ancient brickwork with more enthusiasm than a Real Tennis ball and 3000 fans cheering the royals on adds another energy for the performers.
The by-play of the contest lands surprisingly well, proving how strong the script is when stretched to fill the space. With music already a parody of the biggest pop stars on the planet, the tunes really soar and the perceptiveness with which each was originally constructed shines even brighter in the environment for which the originators would have written them - that big open-air stadium where the women can really kick it.
Best of all, the six are so used to their roles and working together that the delivery is faultless. Hitting the “rude” seemed effortless, like they’d done it a hundred times, which of course they all have. Picking apart each-others stories and forming alliances (“nice neck”) as each vies for the crown has the added piquancy of friends who have shared a journey and can play off their shared experiences to delight the audience.
All that the monkey has to say about the performers and the show construct itself has been said. It would, though, mention the “Ladies In Waiting” this time – Katy Richardson MD on Keys, Alice Angliss on Drums, Amy Shaw on Guitar, Rachel Espute on Bass and Phij Adams on Music Technology. Given terrific outfits and stunning make-up they upped the flow even as they added the prefix (or whatever - sounds good, anyway - editor).
The monkey would also like to mention the, sadly un-named, sign language interpreter who worked so hard throughout the show and gave a whole section of the audience an extra opportunity to participate. Great costuming there as well.
So, the monkey can tick off its “Six List” the entire original London cast, and now has only a “sing-a-long” version to go. The show remains a crown jewel (even if a couple of the participants may have trouble wearing one...) and even if sadly this year’s shows are now herstory, we can only hope for a future “SixFest” in years to come. Unmissable.
5 stars, standing ovation.
Finale video, shot by theatremonkey, can be viewed here.
Photo credit, night shot: Pamela Raith Photography. Used by kind permission.
Other photographs and video by the author.