Lucy Moss: 'It was important we didn't just use the same old tired, historical question about which queen was the most important'
- Kelly Apter
- 6 November 2018
Six, a new show placing Henry VIII's wives centre stage, has taken musical theatre by storm following a sell-out Fringe run. We speak to the creators about re-writing 'herstory'
Toby Marlow was sitting in poetry class when the idea came to him. 'The six wives of Henry VIII were already on my mind,' he recalls, 'but I thought, how could it be done? I wasn't going to write some sort of Tudor narrative for the Fringe.'
A student at Cambridge University at the time, Marlow had been tasked by the Musical Theatre Society to come up with an original show to take to the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe – thereby avoiding expensive royalties. Keen to write a historical drama (The Real Housewives of Shakespeare was considered, then discarded) he turned to Henry's much-mentioned yet rarely revered wives – but struggled to know what to do with them.
'And then that day in class I thought, what if it's a pop concert and they're like a girl band?,' says Marlow, excited just talking about it. 'And I'm trying to concentrate on Wordsworth but keep thinking how they could sing about their lives with microphones and wear funky costumes and crowns.'
Crucially, alongside his notes about Wordsworth, Marlow scribbled three important words: 'I need Lucy'. Enter Lucy Moss, the other half of Marlow and Moss, the new kids on the musical theatre block whose show Six is taking that world by storm.
When I meet the duo in Edinburgh, it's part-way through Six's sell-out run at this year's Fringe. At that stage there's a few things they already know: that the humble musical Cambridge University took to Edinburgh in 2017 would turn the heads of several theatre producers; that Six would subsequently get a wash and brush up in the hands of a crack team of designers, music arrangers and choreographer; and that the show is destined for a four-week run in London post-Edinburgh, followed by a short UK tour.
What they don't know at that point is that the West End run will be extended due to phenomenal demand, sell out and re-book for five months in early 2019. They also don't know that tracks from the show on Spotify and iTunes, which back in August had garnered six or seven thousand listens, would hit the million play mark by mid-October.
All this, plus a glut of five-star reviews (including one from this magazine) and award nominations means Six is doing something very right. Much of its success is down to musical theatre alchemy – fusing an intelligent and witty book with fiendishly catchy songs that range from hip hop to R&B to techno, a cast of incredibly talented performers, wrapped up in a great creative team. Hats off, too, to the producers who took a punt on a brand new show and injected the cash.