On the 17th of December 2019, students and teachers of The Henrietta Barnett School gathered at the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square to see the smash-hit musical ‘Six’.

The show is a modern retelling of the lives of the six wives of Henry the Eighth, presented as more of a pop concert than a traditional musical, each wife taking their turn on the mic to tell their story.

My friends and I, self-confessed musical theatre nerds, were buzzing all the way from the foyer to our seats. While waiting for the show to start, we found that if we listened closely we could hear 16th-century versions of modern pop songs - think Katy Perry’s Firework, except played on a lyre.

The show started with the iconic ‘Ex-Wives’, the opening song dedicated to rejecting the well-known phrase ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’. The queens boldly show that they want to be known for more than just their relationships with the King. They set an electric atmosphere from the very beginning, leaving the audience eager for more.

Each queen has a solo song, all of which are incredibly different and match their characters perfectly. For example, Henry the Eighth’s first wife, the headstrong Catherine of Aragon, had the song ‘No Way’, inspired by Beyoncé and Shakira, painting her as a strong independent woman. It perfectly captures her offence at Henry annulling their marriage in a spirited and exciting way. 

Anne Boleyn’s song ‘Don’t Lose Your Head’ is my personal favourite. Inspired by Lily Allen, the choreography and lyrics are witty and playful. This song portrays Boleyn as a regular sweet, flirtatious girl in her 20s - while cleverly telling the story of how her marriage to Henry quickly turned sour. 

Not all the songs are upbeat, Jane Seymour’s ‘Heart of Stone’ shows the pain she felt as she died before she could see her son grow up, while Catherine Parr’s ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’ tells the story of how she wishes to be known for her abilities and achievements rather than her relationships.

At the close of the show, all the queens appear on stage to sing ‘Six’, a heartwarming song about how instead of being categorised as just Henry’s ex-wives, they would rather take solidarity with each other and be known as themselves. They return for the explosive ‘Mega-Six’, a medley of all the queens’ solo songs that they encourage the audience to film on their phones. This song is not on the soundtrack, so if you would like to hear it, I would definitely recommend seeing the show.

The all-female cast and band (known as 'ladies-in-waiting') use the pop concert genre to show the often-ignored female side of history. But the musical also sends an important message to everyone - Never be afraid to tell your own story.