By Conor O’Neill
Ahh, the first time in the Grand Opera House in well over 18 months. And what a buzz to be back. The Old Girl’s interior make-over is modern yet subtle; history still hangs heavily in the air, the only difference to those lucky enough to get tickets are the slightly bigger chairs, oh, and the fact everyone’s in masks.
And even with the Covid restrictions I was surprised to hear the theatre which has a capacity of 1040, last night held a whopping 947 lucky souls. I really did assume the restrictions would have us sitting in a two thirds full room. But enough of my ruminating on all things Covid related. We all turned up for a great time, and that was surely and bombastically delivered.
We all know of Henry the VIII’s six wives, the philandering royal’s wayward eye and desire for a male heir may have led to the departure from Rome, the creation of The Church of England, the English Renaissance, the dissolution of the monasteries and their overbearing power plus all the other boring academic historical nuances, but Henry’s best known for his six wives and the school mantra of ‘Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’.
The crux of writers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’s tale is to have a deeper look into the lives of the six. The fact that the tales are neatly wrapped into one hour and 20 minutes of sweeping ballads, thumping rock and funk floor-fillers, brilliant choreography and outrageous outfits, makes this foray through the ages an absolute joy to watch.
The live band are named the Ladies In Waiting, a full female foursome of on point, brilliant session musicians who can play any genre or style thrown at them. It’s hard to tell with the rapturous applause and visual feast before us, but I don’t recall one musical mess-up. And high octane big numbers that’ll leave you humming them on your way home was not was expected given the dull harpsichord music that floated around the auditorium as we took our seats. Shock and awe being the little secret of the build up.
The general gist is this, we start of with wife number one and move through the plights of each following wife in what can only be described as half popularity contest, half trying to set the record straight. For all the clean choreography, thrilling music and yards of barely covered flesh – which probably wasn’t the case in the 16th century Tudor court -, Six does have a somewhat true historically bent.
That’s not to say the facts – as we’re taught in school – get in the way of a good tale. What will appeal to a younger audience who have little or no interest in history – note to self, how patronising – but this is a hip show. One with plenty of audience references, quips of OMG and thrilling light changes and florescent sunglasses and costume trim. Six has its thumb on the modern pulse at every turn.
For such a big show there’s simplicity to it, there were few of the sometimes indulgent, vast myriad of costume changes, the set is made for purpose and rarely changes, the lighting perfectly apt for what could be described as more of a live music concert rather than history-based musical theatre.
And for the performers, as you would expect of a show of its ilk, never a foot wrong. Six is well into its run, the directors Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage have it flowing nicely and there’s not a problem to be ironed out. The six wives plus the Ladies In Waiting love every moment of the show and that was more than contagious. Like the wives themselves you’ll be deciding moment by moment which one you prefer. And such is the pace and crafty casting your mind is sure to change at the beat of the drum.
The ‘Tudor Von Trapps’ indeed.
Unfortunately this show is sold out, but with audience cancellations an unfortunate reality of these pandemic times, if I were you I’d still be phoning or checking online for last minute deals.
For further information visit http://www.goh.co.uk or call the box office on 02890 241919
Or for tour dates visit http://www.sixthemusical.com
If you do get a ticket you’re in for a blast!