BWW Interview: The West End Cast Talk Hit Musical SIX
The current cast features: Jarneia Richard-Noel (Catherine of Aragon), Millie O'Connell (Anne Boleyn), Natalie Paris (Jane Seymour), Alexia McIntosh (Anna of Cleves), Aimie Atkinson (Katherine Howard), Maiya Quansah-Breed (Catherine Parr), Grace Mouat (alternate Jane Seymour/Katherine Howard and Dance Captain), and Victoria Manser (Alternate Anne Boleyn/Anna of Cleves).
These queens discuss the show's success - and who is most like their alter ego...
What did you know about this historical period beforehand?
Jarneia: I didn't know a lot about the wives before I started Six - literally divorced, beheaded, died etc. I had to do a bit of research to understand the characters.
Millie: Only what I remember from my GCSEs. I knew about Henry's wives, but not in much detail - or from their side what happened.
Natalie: I knew who Henry VIII was and the rhyme, but not really much else! History wasn't my strong point at school.
Alexia: Just the well-known rhyme - Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.
Aimie: I thought I knew quite a lot, as I was a bit of a Tudor fan at school. But I feel I have a whole new understanding and take on Henry VIII's wives - especially Katherine Howard. There wasn't a lot in the textbooks at school about Henry's fifth wife. It was really summed up in a paragraph.
She was painted out to be this manipulative, flirty seductresses, but really Katherine Howard was only 13 when she was thrust into this male-dominated world. She was just a child trying to survive and do what she was told. She really didn't have a choice in the situation.
Maiya: I only knew what I learnt at school, about the Tudors and Henry VIII, but I didn't really know anything about his wives. I knew the typical mantra and their names, but that was about it. The main focus was Henry and his historical impact on the church.
Grace: Not a lot. I literally only really remembered a few facts from school, including 'divorced, beheaded, died...'
Victoria: The iconic rhyme!
What was your audition like?
Jarneia: It was so much fun and the most relaxed atmosphere I've ever been in. The creative team were so lovely and giving and it made you want to do well. We had everything all in one day: scenes, material, dance round and sang our own song to the panel and to the rest of the auditionees that day. It felt more like a workshop.
Millie: Brilliant. Not only was it a good atmosphere, I got to work creatively one-to-one with my director and co-director going through the script and song.
Natalie: My audition was one of the best and friendliest I've had actually. All I can remember is finishing my song and [writer] Toby Marlow clapping enthusiastically at the end - I didn't quite know what to do. Everyone on the panel made me feel so comfortable and really put me at ease.
Alexia: It was really fun - a group workshop with choreographer Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, and I really enjoyed singing my song, En Vogue's "Don't Let Go".
Aimie: There was a really supportive vibe from everyone in the room. My favourite moment was when I was singing "Rolling in the Deep" and Renee Lamb (the original Catherine of Aragon) started doing the backing vocals - everyone joined in and it just ended up a singalong. It was brilliant!
Maiya: So much fun! One of the most fun auditions I've ever had. Everyone was so supportive - they were clapping you and cheering you on. I've never had that before.
Grace: Hilarious! I knew I really wanted the job just from working with [writer/co-director] Lucy [Moss] and [co-director] Jamie [Armitage] in the audition. I also sung a song written by another audtionee in front of her, which was crazy! Luckily, I didn't find out it was her band until after I'd finished. Everyone was laughing. It was absolute jokes.
Victoria: Different to any others I've done before, as it was the only singing and acting call I've ever had to do in front of other people auditioning. It was out of my comfort zone for sure, but I love feeding off what other people give you.
Describe your character in six words or fewer
Jarneia: Sassy, strong, powerful, leader, resilient, courageous.
Millie: Anne Boleyn is fun, witty, and quirky. She says what she thinks, and enjoys bringing light and laughter.
Natalie: Loyal, kind, motherly, geeky, strong, funny (she thinks).
Alexia: Proud, confident, sassy, funny, fierce, feisty.
Aimie: Strong, resilient, misunderstood, charming, bright.
Maiya: Sassy, strong, intelligent, driven, beyond her years.
Grace: Aragon, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard, Parr. LOL!
Victoria: I'm alternate for Boleyn and Cleves, and the great thing is all the alternates have their own spin on all the characters. My Cleves is a bit goofy, excitable and fun. My Boleyn is a bit more cute, a bit ditzy at times but not stupid! She's a lot of fun too.
Who in the cast do you think is closest to their Six musical alter ego?
Jarneia: I think everyone channels a bit of their character. Millie O'Connell is definitely Anne Boleyn in real life! The things she comes out with are just hilarious.
Millie: Alexia is basically Anna of Cleves! She's a sassy diva, but with a big heart. The way her character is written are things she would address and say in real life.
Natalie: That's a hard one. I think each queen has an element or trait of themselves in their characters.
Alexia: ME!!! Everyone is like their alter ego, though.
Maiya: All the girls are their characters, if that makes sense - we could never imagine being any other character, because it's like each song was made for us.
Grace: Millie O'Connell literally is Anne Boleyn.
Why has Six struck such a chord with audiences?
Jarneia: I think it's mainly the original catchy songs and hilarious script. Ten women on stage for 75 minutes, rocking it out - what more could you ask for? We get lovely responses from so many fans. The show has really helped to uplift, empower and create an atmosphere where (mainly) girls with similar interests have become friends because of the show.
Millie: I think it's relatable - all the queens relate to someone in the audience. It's educational too; someone said they learned more from our show about the wives than from their history lessons in high school. It's girl power! It gives the audience confidence and a voice to know they are fierce QUEENS.
Natalie: I think Six is so relevant and current that people of all ages and backgrounds can connect to it in some way. It's uplifting, vibrant and clever, and very different from any musical out there at the moment. Also, you don't get many musicals that celebrate womanhood performed by an all-female cast and band.
Alexia: The storyline. This retelling is fresh, new, sassy, and has a pop concert feel. The costumes are AMAZING. My favourite response is girls crying and saying they feel empowered to pursue their dreams.
Aimie: One of the most amazing things about the show is how relatable it is. The problems and issues that these six women went through aren't really a lot different from what women and girls go through today.
My favourite comment was when a teacher came to me after the show and said she was immediately going to go back to her class and reteach the whole Tudor syllabus. I hope that somewhere the wives are all jumping for joy that their story is finally being told from those points of view.
Maiya: Because it's so much fun, it's empowering - audiences leave wanting more, they sing the lyrics at us, some audience members say our lines too! Every venue we've been to has had memorable audience moments.
Grace: The message, the music, the costumes, the jokes, the queens, the sass. Everything! It is so accessible for all ages AND it's educational. My favourite response was someone leaving the theatre and shouting "I'm gonna dump my boyfriend".
Victoria: Because the music is great - it's so cleverly written. It's witty and funny and makes you look at the wives in a different way. It's a completely different perspective on history.
Why should people come see your new West End run?
Jarneia: We had an amazing tour and created such a buzz and fanbase. It's the perfect night to just let go and have fun!
Millie: There is nothing like this show in town right now! It's funny, insane vocals, fantastic comedy script and killer dancing. The concert aspect really includes the audience and you feel like you're a part of the show with us.
Natalie: If you want to laugh, cry, get up and dance - and even learn something about Tudor history - then this is the show for you! We have so much fun performing it, and I'm pretty sure you'll have just as much fun as we do.
Alexia: It's a great night out that all ages will enjoy - you will leave feeling empowered and on a HIGH!
Aimie: Because if you don't you'll regret it.
Maiya: Why not continue the madness! The education, the empowerment, sharing the love we have for the stories of these incredible ladies with as many people as we possibly can.
Grace: We have two amazing new queens joining us. And it's about to pop off!
Victoria: You'll have so much fun - and learn a few things whilst you're at it!
Photo credit: Idil Sukan