“Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived.”
We’ve all heard the rhyme. Perhaps recited those very words in classrooms, lips moving mindlessly; eyes staring blankly forward. However, recent university graduates Tom Marlow and Lucy Moss bring vibrant life to the dull textbook in their hit-musical SIX; an event that can only be described as a spectacular collision of musical and pop concert. This unique piece of theatre has taken the world by storm; infecting social media platforms and rapidly crossing borders. And now, SIX has planted its flag upon Australian shores; declaring a new Queendom. Transforming the otherwise conventional space of an Opera House theatre into a cacophony of Tutorose hilarity, bright lights and killer limericks, SIX will surely excite, surprise and exhilarate audiences.
SIX dances the line between pop concert and musical theatre, teetering scandalously towards the former. Better defined as a ‘song cycle’, the show is loosely tied together by a single premise ; which Queen suffered the most during her time with King Henry VIII? To prove their case the six Queens access a variety of music styles, from Lily Allen to Beyoncé, therefore creating a miniature pop concert ; a cliche and tacky plight if not for Marlow and Moss’ ingenious blending of snarky humor with omnipresent societal truths.
Fitting a down-sized stadium show into the smallest function room in the Opera House is clearly quite the feat. In fact, upon entering, I was underwhelmed by the stage; bleak white light beaming down on a barren stage, the only visual interest being a monochrome, empty band set up.
But then the Queens mounted the stage, instantly obliterating my initial doubts.
The Queens radiated an undeniable and powerful presence, removing the need for set pieces and capturing the fundamental feminist energies of the show. Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s razor-sharp choreography furthered this ambience, allowing the characters to overcome the doleful “damsel-in-distress” archetype; an unfairly quintessential element of musical theatre. Unfortunately, the dancing itself left something to be desired. Intended to be a show of synchronicity and unity, Some movements were reduced to a dismal and inadvertent canon effect, bringing the caliber of the show down a peg. Otherwise, Tim Deiling’s impressive moving lighting design captured the “pop-concert” feel perfectly; smartly transforming blank walls into thrones, churches and Tinder simulations.
The only song that failed to capture my undivided attention was the “heart-wrenching” 11 o’clock number, Heart of Stone. Moss’ advocacy for actresses maintaining their nation’s accent was taken too literally in this instance, stifling and dishonouring Loren Hunter’s (Jane Seymor) usual melodic tones. The unnecessary almost-hyperbolic exaggeration of the Australian diphthong, most prevalent in “stone”, mutated the innately beautiful song into a bogan lament. This flawed directorial choice robbed the audience of empathy; one of the greatest sins in the world of theatre.
All You Wanna Do, a song featured later in the musical, was everything that Heart Of Stone should’ve been. Ingrouille, through accessing elements of physical theatre, creates grimy and
perverted symbolism throughout this high-energy number, artfully engaging with the audience intellectually. Outstretched hands claw up Courtney Monsma’s (Catherine Howard) shoulder, torso and inner thigh; each grasp more sickening than the last. Monsma’s stellar acting throughout magnifies messages reminiscent of the #MeToo movement, presenting poignant questions to the audience and affecting them far beyond what would be possible in a traditional ballad.
While I do not consider this “the next Hamilton”, as it has been affectionately coined by global fans, SIX does present interesting, though elementary, questions on the theatrical and social representation of women throughout history. Though not a piece of critical analysis, Marlow and Moss should be congratulated for their successes, and I am excited to see what they produce into the future.