Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived: a mnemonic burned into the reminiscence of anybody with a fleeting information of Tudor historical past however quickly to be changed by the irresistible europop-cum-’Greensleeves’-cum-Future’s Youngster earworms in Six, the vampy, campy, scream of a musical concerning the wives of King Henry VIII, written and directed by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.
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The present – in which the wives are a woman band and every member makes an attempt to usurp the others in track with how a lot worse they suffered with their mutual “famous ex” – has been a word-of-mouth sensation because it opened in 2017, and is about to start its second West Finish run, simply prolonged to January 2020 at Arts Theatre after a nationwide tour. Dates in Chicago have additionally been introduced. “We literally just wrote it for a month-long student Edinburgh Fringe show,” explains Marlow. For him, the success of Six is “overwhelming and bemusing.” Moss says for a second earlier than its debut they imagined doing a week in London. “We laughed at ourselves for being so self-indulgent… now it’s like a horrifying joke that’s gone too far.”
Six – The Musical (Photograph: Idil Sukan)
Marlow and Moss are each 24. They met at college – Cambridge, however they only say “uni” and it’s clear they’re acutely aware of their privileges. They turned buddies engaged on theatre productions, Moss had been at dance faculty for 2 years earlier than learning historical past (she was racing to complete her dissertation on American musical choreographer Busby Berkeley whereas writing Six) and spent all her time directing and choreographing. Marlow, who had been a baby actor, studied English and all the time imagined he may do an EP afterwards and turn out to be a singer-songwriter, “Ed Sheeran vibes”. Each of them nonetheless fear that two years down the road they’ll be pressured to offer this up and do a regulation conversion.
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They’re very younger to have their very own musical of this scale, and present enterprise can be a daunting and unique world. Initially Moss tried to “look like a grown up, pretend I know what I’m doing” however now prefers Marlow’s strategy in embracing his relative inexperience. Originally, “We had to ask what a producer was”. They’ve not often discovered individuals snooty or condescending, however if they’re it’s “usually with good reason… We are just babies” says Marlow. “People don’t treat us like we’re bottom of the ladder.” I’m not stunned: they’re garrulous, however clearly meticulously thorough, thought-about, and in management.
Toby Marlow (Writer) and Lucy Moss (Writer) (Photograph: Kevin Wilson PR)
Toby describes their relationship as “weird married siblings” which appears about proper. We meet in the basement dressing room at Trafalgar Studios, where they’re one night time into the run of their second musical, Scorching Homosexual Time Machine, which chronicles experiences of popping out. Given all of the weird and entertaining tangents which are dissected in element as we speak – Jessie J’s Chinese language fame, the snobbery about pop music in A Star is Born – I’m wondering how they get something accomplished: writing includes “us in a room together staring at each other until something happens” they usually lately rented a studio in Dulwich, “far from everywhere” (she lives in Bethnal Inexperienced, he in a good friend’s mother and father’ home on the Strand) to assist them focus.
They converse quickly, continuously self-deprecating, cracking clever jokes and fast to acknowledge something which may be misunderstood as inflated or uninformed. It isn’t performative millennial “wokeness” however an earnest want and duty to get issues proper when “so much of the great entertainment we love always has a horrifyingly problematic message, or is really outdated”, as Moss places it.
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When it got here to the idea of Six, Marlow was savvy. “At Edinburgh, everyone’s shoving flyers in your face, so if you want people to come to your random production you’ve got to make sure the subject is something people recognise. Classic example is Wicked – the backstory to The Wizard of Oz, done in a funky way. ‘Ooh, what’s that?’”
Six – The Musical (Photograph: Idil Sukan)
He considered teams of girls from historical past or literature that hadn’t been fictionalised in musical theatre earlier than. Early concepts included The Actual Housewives of Shakespeare and a musical backstory to the witches of Macbeth, however he landed on the wives of Henry VIII and – “because I’m super gay and love pop stars” – got here up with the woman band pop-concert concept throughout a poetry class and thought “Need Lucy, need Lucy!”
Six is cheeky, ironic, musically polished and full intelligent nods to influences like Beyoncé and Ariana Grande and Little Combine with acerbic historic references in strains like “Ladies let’s get in reformation” and “I tried to elope but the Pope said ‘nope’”.
Requested about their inspirations, as an alternative of the standard “Rodgers and Hammerstein” they launch into a dialogue concerning the American screenwriter Amy Sherman-Palladino (creator of Gilmore Women and The Marvelous Mrs Maisel) for Moss and for Marlow, the Swedish songwriter and producer Max Martin – author of Britney Spears’s “Baby One More Time” and – their favorite – Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”, amongst different masterpieces.
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What’s extra essential once you’re writing a present: its message, or its entertainment worth? Moss and Marlow are delighted once I inform them my sister noticed Six on a women’ night time out – “that’s exactly what we wanted” – nevertheless it’s clear they’re fiercely conscious of the necessity for a deeper, progressive which means. “It would be great if we lived in a world where everything that was fun didn’t reinforce horrible stereotypes like Disney,” Moss says.
Six – The Musical Credit score: Idil Sukan Offered by [email protected]
Earlier than they began writing that they had a “pretentious” six-point plan for the present’s intentions. It included “Meaty roles for women – we have friends who are really funny performers who never had the parts. Show parallels in the female experience between 500 years ago and today, show that women can tell amazing stories without men being present, that they don’t have to be about men to be funny, do it within something that’s first and foremost to entertain and is completely aware of its own silliness and campness and not too earnest or sincere.” Fairly a mission assertion, then, and one which hindsight (and a handful of criticisms of the present’s tackle feminism) has pressured them to evaluate.
“The feminism of Six isn’t revolutionary in any way,” says Moss. “It’s very 2017. If we were writing it now, we wouldn’t be thinking about women in the same way.” She says that “the fact that the wives talk about Henry VIII the entire time, and don’t pass the Bechdel Test [which measures whether a work features two or more women who talk to each other about something other than a man], is kind of half the point but also a bit of a disaster.”
For Marlow, “If I went to see Six, not having written it, I’d be like ‘It’s really fun, songs are fun, but six straight narratives shoved down my throat, again.’ It’s a bit ‘girl power’. I’m proud of Six and I love it, but I feel like we’ve also learnt from it. The narrative we chose to tell didn’t allow for much cutting-edge feminist message… But then who are we to write about queer black feminism?”
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Moss additionally frets about their tongue-in-cheek remedy of a few of the wives. Take Anne Boleyn, recast right here as a ditzy smartphone addict. “We’ve reduced her to this idiot. Fourteen-year-old girls come away and say ‘I’m obsessed with her, she was so funny’ but with no idea that she was one of the most accomplished, witty, artful, brilliant, savvy women in history.” That’s, in fact, a part of the entire joke, however she worries that maybe “the commercial poppy sparkly extravaganza that this show is can cloud what it’s trying to say”.
Six – The Musical (Photograph: Idil Sukan)
One thing that performs on each their minds is ‘How do you shift the boundaries of what is considered to be ‘broadly appealing’? Moss has buddies whose fathers have seen Six considering they’d hate it, however had a sensible time. “Maybe after that, they’re more likely to go and see something with a bunch of women that will push the boundaries more than we have.” Marlow is fast to level out that too typically when intending a present to be broadly interesting, the idea is “that audiences should be cis-het white men. Why are they the ones we should be impressing?”
The one method ahead isn’t to accept ‘good enough’, in order that they welcome and heed criticism of their work. “I think you should keep complaining. We have the diversity and representation that we have at the moment – still a fraction of what it will be one day – because people in the margins of society complained,” Marlow says.
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Nonetheless, Six stands out: an all-female forged, all-female band, and open casting that inspired any lady (or non-binary individual) who might sing pop, of any age, physique form, and ethnicity to audition, continues to be uncommon, and the pair are immensely pleased with it. “I hope it reflects the diversity of talent that we look to employ,” says Marlow. “People come to Six for a great night and see a stage filled with 10 insanely talented brilliant women just being amazing”. Moss says with a smile: “I still think that’s super sick.”
Six opens at Arts Theatre tomorrow and continues to January 5, 2020 (020 7836 8463)