SiX

Thu 3rd – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Constance Kampfner

at 10:29 on 22nd Aug 2017

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When I was first invited along to ‘SiX’, a musical comedy about Henry VIII wives re-imagined for the 21st century, I’m ashamed to admit that I was not convinced. Luckily when I was next offered the opportunity to see the show, I seized it. An hour later I found myself emerging from the theatre, in full buzz mode and chanting feminist pop mantras to myself.

In a slight historical twist the six women have come back to life and formed a girl band. We meet them on their ‘Divorced, Beheaded LIVE tour’ in which they are trying to decide who should take the part of lead vocalist. They decide that the lucky lady who suffered the most at the hands of the king shall be crowned the Beyonce to their Destiny’s Child, the Queen of the Pops.

Queue six belting pop songs, in which each actor relates her story to the crowd. For those like me whose Tudor history is a little shaky there were some genuine surprises. For example I didn’t known that after being divorced by Henry, for not being as ‘attractive as her profile picture’ (maybe some artistic licence was taken here), Anne of Cleves inherited her own castle and continued to live a life of luxury. Therefore she is very quickly out of the running.

Some of the songs were definitely punchier than others. My personal highlight was Anne Boleyn’s (Ashleigh Weir) ‘Sorry not Sorry’ which included some brilliant lines about secession such as ‘Everybody chill its totes God’s will’. A couple of the songs however did drag on a little, and could perhaps have done with one less chorus. Some more dialogue in between the songs to explore the relationships between the women would have been welcome instead.

That being said, a continuous supply of well choreographed dance routines and enthusiastic backing vocals meant that it was extremely difficult to be bored by the show. The six actresses have great chemistry on stage, and despite the fictional competition, not one leaves the rest behind. Instead they all shine, like the queens they are, together. This is one of those shows where it’s obvious how much fun the performers are having, and that kind of energy is infectious.

Seeing six women take the historical stage like this is a brilliantly refreshing state of affairs. Pop, history, feminism and fun; if any of those appeal to you then do not miss ‘SiX’. One of the most consistently witty shows at the fringe, it was a delight to watch.

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Emily Lawford

at 11:36 on 22nd Aug 2017

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The six wives of Henry VIII have been rendered either victims or evil temptresses by the history books. Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society’s ‘SiX’ attempts to put those wrongs to right. The premise of the show is that these six women have been deeply misunderstood - their stories taken out of their own hands. They must therefore they must battle it out to see who had the comparatively worst life. It’s important to emphasise, though, that the play is really ultimately not about victimhood. It’s empowering, fun to watch and even, at times, heart-breaking.

'SiX' offers a unique look at the stories of these famous women. Director Jamie Armitage says, ‘Co-written by Toby Marlow, the writer behind the acclaimed Footlights Pantomime, Robin Hood, and history graduate Lucy Moss, this brand new show is fantastically funny and full to the brim with historical references.’ This is a show in which six young actors reclaim these female stories for themselves and tell them in a fresh and powerful way.

This is the first time that Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society has taken original musical to the Edinburgh Fringe. The confidence of the performances, and the ambition behind the production, was startling. With a live band and high-energy singing and dancing, 'SiX' depends on its cast of 6 actresses to bring good vocals, good dancing, and good acting (no mean feat) – and they manage it. Although the comedic timing and vocals were strong, there was occasional messiness in the dance routines, though clearly this is something that can be easily fixed.

The level of depth to 'SiX' was its most surprising and praiseworthy feature. Without giving anything away, it is a lot more than first appearances suggest. Not only is there a clever feminist undertone, but there is a transition for the initial sass and silly play-fighting between the girls to a sense of camaraderie by the end.

The actresses were all highly talented. Each performed her own solo (as well as performing together in between). The highlights were the songs of Anna of Cleves ( Matilda Wickham) and Catherine of Aragon (Megan Gilbert). Jane Seymour elicited the audience’s pity in her sad and slow number, but the level of emotional heart tugging made her character less rounded than the others, though this was no fault of the actress. There was truly no noticeably weaker performer. What’s more, aside from shining in their solos, the cast also worked really well as an ensemble, supporting each other’s songs even as their characters kept trying to get one over on each other.

This is, overall, an intensely entertaining production – not just for women, but for everyone. Not only is it wholly original but given that it’s a new musical written and performed by university students of, it is even more impressive than it would otherwise be.

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