Hamilton meets Spice Girls meets Madame Jojo’s – in Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow’s electric gig-theatre piece about refusing to be reduced, or erased, to a mnemonic.
Six starts with an unequivocal insight: that, institutionally no less, all our 6-year old selves were taught or at least remember about Henry’s wives are the details of their demise. Not their names (can you name all 6?), their socio-political backgrounds, their aspirations or achievements. Frankly, not anything – other than how they served as decorations in a man’s story. And a psychopathic one, at that.
Co-writers Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow, and a six-strong, satisfyingly faultless cast, are understandably not cool with that. So with surefire Cell Block Tango vibes, Six the Musical treats us to an immaculately constructed, and infectiously slick, 75-minute education about the lives of six relatively formidable women – that’s frequently nothing short of electric.
With vocals as powerful as its underlying message, choreography as spiky and unapologetic as its lyrics and one of the most satisfying production designs I’ve seen in years (the show literally feels like it was built for the Arts Theatre), the only thing more gripping – for me – than the action was the look on the little girl’s face sitting a couple of seats down from me in Row H. She was probably 9 or 10 – and to watch her, face lit up like a firework, watching six ferocious and extraordinarily talented women (and an all-female, kickass band) ‘refusing to be erased from history’, made the experience even more special for me. It’s a Hamilton for an X Factor audience – still intelligent and exhilarating, but with the poppy infusion of the Spice Girls or Little Mix.
I compare to Hamilton, by the way, not to diminish the show – but in reference to its slickness, the rhythmic nature of its dialogue and of course its ‘That’s not my story, this is‘ conclusion. Six the Musical‘s personality, and sense of humour, is distinct though: in the spirit of a true Edinburgh show, it takes itself far less seriously. And its tone is far wryer…I suppose, distinctively British. ‘Guys, I have the plague. LOL, just kidding. My life’s amazing’ probably says it all.
I like Six the Musical all the more, actually, because it knows it’s not radical. It never frames itself as either revolutionary or revelatory; moments pretty much self-reference Hamilton, Hot Brown Honey and gig-theatre smashes like Middle Child’s All We Ever Wanted Was Everything. Moss and Marlow’s show wants to exist as well as these, rather than instead – and because of the quality of its writing, performers and design, there’s more than enough room for it.
I realise I’m gushing, but I think a show occasionally comes along when you just have to do that. Constructively, the production could be even smarter about encouraging the audience to be more responsive from the off (my matinee audience, anyway, needed a bit of warming up). The tone of the show (Madame Jojo vibes) means they could definitely get away with utilising more of the standard cabaret tricks to make an audience loosen up, feel confident making a lot of noise and to visibly enjoy themselves.
But I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a cast set the stage on so much fire (and I was at a matinee. Heaven knows what they’re capable of pulling off with an up-for-it audience on a Saturday night). Jarneia Richard-Noel, Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Alexia McIntosh, Aimie Atkinson and Maiya Quansah-Breed perform Six the Musical with so much conviction that it really feels like they’ve brought the best of what Edinburgh can be, down with them. Though I appreciate it likely looks and feels like a completely different production since their 2017 Sweet Grassmarket stint that I couldn’t manage to get a ticket to, the spirit of Edinburgh is still very much beating in Six. And that’s what makes it so exciting.