We’re all familiar with the tune – ‘Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived.’ We know Henry VIII was the husband from hell. What we don’t know much about, however, is the motivations and emotions of his wives. Six women have had their entire existence in history defined by one man. The queens at Underbelly George Square take a stand – in musical form.
Let me start by saying the show has girl power at its core- the cast is made of six ladies, and are accompanied by an all-female band. Once they are on stage, they leave only momentarily to make slight costume changes, and the rest of the time they are singing, dancing, and acting their way through their six life stories. The dance routines are sleek, their costumes are wonderfully sparkly, and their harmonies are so tight they put their corsets to shame. I found the songs so incredibly catchy that I scoured Spotify for the three tracks they have released so far, and listened to them on repeat in wait for the full album.
What struck me most about the show, however, was the feminist undertone to be found amongst the pop numbers. We often forget these women were forced into marriage, most at very young ages, and were belittled and abused by their husband. Catherine of Aragon (Jarneia Richard-Noel) comes off initially as a scorned first wife, but we learn that her unflinching loyalty for both Henry and his brother, to whom she was previously married, was overlooked by everyone. Anne Boleyn (Millie O’Connell), often depicted as a seductress in popular culture, was simply a naive young girl who was horrendously mistreated at court. Jane Seymour (Natalie Paris) truly loved Henry and was a devoted wife and mother, but her vulnerability was taken advantage of prior to her death. Anne of Cleves (Alexia McIntosh) was humiliated upon Henry’s rejection of her, but retook the reins on her life. Catherine Howard (Aimie Atkinson) searched for love but had her sexuality taken advantage of instead. And Katherine Parr (Maiya Quansah-Breed) was a heartbroken woman forced to live husband to husband.
Their stories translate surprisingly well to such a stage format – performances range from Beyoncé-like ballads to teasing tunes reminiscent of Lily Allen to diss tracks worthy of Lady Leshurr. The show has plenty of glitz and jokes framed in modern circumstances – including a dating app bit showing Henry swiping right and left on potential brides – but it also has a big heart, and six wonderfully talented women who are queens in their own right. I would give it 6 stars if I could.
Six runs until the 27th of August – https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/six