A wonderful thing happened on the way to Six at the Royal & Derngate. As all six particles in our nuclear family argued about where to grab a bite before the performance we found ourselves strolling along beside the theatre just as the audience from the previous showing spilled out on to the street.
At one point it was just us and then suddenly it was everyone in every direction, smiling post-performance faces milling around, deciding there was time for a quick drink before they went back to the babysitter.
I instructed Sceptical Teenage Daughter to imagine she was in the West End and briefly you could almost imagine it, although it would have been easier if the pandemic had been kinder to one or two of the catering businesses in the vicinity.
But there it was in all its glory like the legendary great herd of buffalo the first people of America waited for in vain: thousands of footfalls in the town centre with a warm fuzzy let’s do something else feeling in their tummies. For sure it all fizzled away, and gosh what do I know, but it really did seem that a cultural attraction was bringing into our town the kind of people we should be selling things to. Maybe we should have more of them.
However it takes a lot more than that kind of pointless dad twaddle to impress Sceptical Teenage Daughter and Six spectacularly fitted the bill.
The idea of the show is a conceit presenting the six wives of Henry VIII as a girl band backed by an all female group of musicians called the Ladies in Waiting. The action is a kind of gig featuring a song showcasing each of the wives.
That idea is good enough on its own but the superb set of songs also wittily challenges the male-centric perception of their stories, delivering food for thought and a feast for the senses as well.
We didn’t know it before we went but Six is already a thing and you could tell that a lot of the packed in Derngate audience knew the songs and knew it was ok to participate. A brave lad on the front row even got up to dance to the delight of the wives.
The wives and musicians demonstrated a complete mastery of the material, especially impressive as they have been belting out multiple performances a day and ours crackled with big Queen energy from the first breath.
I can’t recommend this show highly enough. It’s fun and it’s clever and it reminds you what theatre can really do on so many levels.
Grab some of the few remaining tickets for Royal & Derngate here