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Six! The Musical via Facebook

“We had no sense that it would ever take off beyond the student fringe circuit!”

6 October 2018 Gus Mitchell

Six! The Musical's fusion of pop with empowerment and historically hilarious lyrics have made the show a smash. As the musical closes out a remarkable extended run at the Arts Theatre, we chatted to Lucy Moss, writer and co-director, about the experience of writing and evolving the hit show - and its return to London in January 2019!

Lucy Moss, co-creator and co-director of Six! Image Credit: Lucy Moss

London Calling: SIX has clicked for a wide variety of audiences. When you were writing and originally staging the show, did you have any particular audience in mind, or people you wanted to connect to? 
Lucy Moss: We originally wrote the show for the Edinburgh fringe, so we definitely wrote with that audience in mind. For example, the reason we chose to write about the six wives of Henry VIII at all is because we knew we needed something that people of all ages know at least something about. I also think, given that we had no sense that it would ever take off beyond the student fringe circuit, we were probably imagining our audience to be roughly our own age when crafting the jokes. I know that a lot of what shaped our writing was a desire to write something that we ourselves would want to see: we love pop music, we both want to see more women in musical theatre being given meaty, funny parts; we both like slightly nerdy humour and we both spend hours watching modern dance and singing on YouTube. Before writing a word of the show itself, we wrote a kind of manifesto of ‘what we were trying to do’ with the show, and this included the aim of showing audiences that women can create funny and engaging stories together, without men being present or included, but not ‘just for women audiences’.

Millie O'Connell as Anne Boleyn. Image Credit: Six! The Musical via Facebook

LC: What was the most difficult challenge transferring SIX from the world of Cambridge/Edinburgh to the West End?
LM: To be perfectly honest, it was really difficult for us to figure out where the lines between the ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ worlds were and to negotiate that transition on a personal level - in terms of relationships with people and also our relationships with our own skills. It was completely unexpected, and we very much felt like children suddenly thrown into the world of the grown-ups. We definitely made mistakes, but it taught us so much about how valuable people and friendships are - within your professional realm or not. Thankfully, we were aided by our wonderful producers and their teams, who helped guide us (and continue to do so). 


The women of Six! in Rehearsal. Image Credit: Six! The Musical via Facebook

LC: When you were working together on writing the show, how much did the writing of music and lyrics influence each other? Did you consult together and change each other’s minds or was it a really separate process? 
LM: It is impossible to distinguish the writing of the lyrics from the writing of the music really. Anyone who underestimates the importance of lyrics and music coming from the same place and shaping each other completely is in trouble. We aren’t a team that writes music and lyrics separately: we sit in a room together, Toby at the piano, Lucy at the laptop, and we write the song together. The stimulus for a song will often come from somewhere different: an idea we want to explore, a melody Toby has found himself humming in the shower, a moment in a character’s life - but from that point onwards the meaning and sound of the music and the meaning and sound of the lyric shape each other entirely. 

Alexia McIntosh as Anne of Cleves. Image Credit: Six! The Musical via Facebook

LC: Are there changes you’d like to see in theatre in general, and musical theatre specifically, both in the business of it and the choice of what and how shows get put on or revived?
LM: Yes. SIX was born out of a very specific desire to give women a more prominent place in musical theatre; to allow the numerous amazing women and NB performers we knew to have the change to showcase their talents in ways that most musicals we see don’t. There was a review in the Sunday Times a few months ago of The Writer by Ella Hickson. This play was discussing the difficulties and systematic injustices that women creatives face in the theatrical industry. The reviewer’s response was derisive, saying that The Writer was a show written by a woman, directed by a woman, and starring a woman. He said, ‘if there really is a sinister patriarchy keeping women down in the industry, it is doing a rubbish job.’ But for the West-End theatre listings the ST had published on the opposite page to the review, between just 10-15% of the writers and directors of these shows were women. That says it all really. So yes, we need more diverse stories being told, more diverse casting, more diverse creative and production teams, and fewer sexist critics. I also personally would just love to see some more that experiment with the form and challenge the idea of what a musical can be. 

LC: Which is your favourite wife? 
LM: The wife with my favourite story is Anne of Cleves, because it’s one of the few that you can well and truly spin as a positive outcome for the ladies. She was the one who is remembered as the ‘ugly one’ who came over to England when Henry had seen her portrait, but then supposedly didn’t live up to his expectations so he divorced her. Most people’s knowledge of the story ends there, but she was an amazing diplomat and used the fact that Henry would want to keep things chill with her powerful family back home to secure herself the most incredible divorce settlement ever. She outlived them all, including the survivor Catherine Parr, never remarried, and spent the rest of her days drinking and gallivanting on the grounds of her own private palace in Richmond.
 
Tickets are now on sale for Six’s 2019 run at the Arts Theatre, Great Newport St, London WC2H 7JB

 
 
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