e all know the rhyme about King Henry VIII’s wives: Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Chances are, that’s probably all you know about these six historical women. Back in 2017, determined to look beyond the refrain and educate the world about the wives’ backstories, writers Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow created the feminist pop musical Six. As the show’s tagline reads, these women were instead “divorced, beheaded, live in concert!”
Six is a true musical for the digital age, with an army of fans on social media and nearly one million monthly listeners on Spotify. Its ability to tap into that youth audience is surely helped by the fact that its creators Moss, 27, and Marlow, 26, were in their early twenties when they wrote the show. Theatre has a reputation for being stuffy and outdated, but the duo are lively and energetic as we speak over Zoom, with Moss at one point getting distracted as a man passes the window on a skateboard pulled by his dog. They are also, understandably, ecstatic about the reopening of venues this week and the prospect of seeing “so much goddamn theatre” again.
Six’s premise is simple: what if Henry VIII’s wives performed in a girl band? The members (Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, Catherine Parr) compete amongst themselves to decide who suffered the most at the Tudor king’s hands, telling their stories through a wide spectrum of pop songs. There’s a German techno/oompah band mash-up about the “Haus of Holbein”, while Anne Boleyn’s Lily Allen-esque “Don’t Lose Ur Head” features phenomenal lines such as: “The rules were so outdated/Us two wanted to get X-rated/Soon, ex-communicated/Everybody chill, it’s totes God’s will.”