Northern Ireland news

Review: Six at the Grand Opera House

Hit musical Six brings a fresh and energetic new perspective to the story of Henry VIII's wives. Picture by Johan Persson

Six - Grand Opera House

POST-lockdown, I wanted entertainment, distraction, uplift and Restoration comedy, ideally with characters named Noodle and Doodle.

At the reopening of the Grand Opera House on Wednesday night I got most of the above and then some via Six, the deservedly feted West End musical about the yep, six unfortunate wives of Henry VIII.

If you remember, he got divorced from Rome in order to acquire the same arrangement with poor Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn.

The history (herstory, sorry) didn't end well for the six but this show defines exuberance and is as high energy as a trip to the gym.

You might not think the tale of the women described as 'divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived' is good musical theatre material, but my God, it is.

Writers and composers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, who wrote Six while doing their finals at Cambridge, have spliced history with girl power.

They play with the fourth wall a bit and allow the women known for their relationship with King Henry to speak and sing for themselves.

It works, fabulously. On stage we have drums, guitar and keyboard (on harpsichord mode), and this gorgeous slice of musical theatre is musically great, which matters.

It's rock and roll with different musical genres deployed by each of the wives in their songs. Interestingly, the main man himself never appears - but that's the point in this fairly feminist, very ballsy show.

The format is contemporary, referencing reality TV as we start out with a competition about which wife had the worst experience. The performers who belt out the songs and lines are superb.

There was a deserved standing ovation, with fans in the stalls endlessly Instagramming it all.

As Anne of Cleves (Shekinah McFarlane) noted, the Holbein portrait that sold her to Henry prettied her up, "I didn't match my profile picture..."

Six runs until Saturday. "Amazing" was the comment in the post-show buzz, even though a Northern Ireland audience is not always easy to please. There was a laugh at the pronunciation of "Protest-ant" and an audible squeak of excitement from the 95 per cent obediently masked auditorium.

Five Olivier nominations and a Broadway run can't be wrong. Catch this if you can.

It might not sound like traditional musical theatre fodder, but Six - a musical about Henry VIII's wives - works fabulously. Picture by Johan Persson

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