Hamilton – Disney +

Directed by Thomas Kail

Book, Music & Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Rating: 5 out of 5.

For people who never understood, indeed resented, the attention and proclaimed brilliance of Hamilton – this is the opportunity to witness the phenomenon which has, and continues to, challenge the face of theatrical culture and historical perception. The American founding fathers, among the hundreds of names left out of their rise to glory, one individual sits overcast throughout history – Alexander Hamilton. A man who, before Lin-Manuel Miranda, the majority of us had perhaps heard of, but knew nothing about.

Sly, charming to a dysfunctional level, Miranda may be the father of Hamilton, but this production is by no means dominated by his exceptional ability or presence. There isn’t a character or moment of the production which feels bereft of wit, emotion or intention. Continuing the spark ideas of intrigue, or conjure debates which, somehow, a mere two centuries later we still seem to be having, Miranda’s Hamilton is both a product of the original century, an immigrant getting the job done, but is also a contemporary figure, a man who cries of the inequality and obstacles many continue to unjustly face.

And in this battle to free a nation, Hamilton is aided by a troupe of ambitious men and surrounds himself in a supportive network of influential women. From Daveed Diggs’s Marquis de Lafayette or his hypnotic Jefferson to the wonderment which is Renée Elise Goldsberry and Phillipa Soo as Angelica and Eliza Schulyer, two of three sisters who Hamilton finds an opportunity to climb the ranks, but ends up in a triangle of love and adoration he will never emerge from. Facing adversity from near and afar, from his former equal Aaron Burr, and across the sea from the Mad King George, performed sinfully by the eminent Jonathon Groff. Under the command of George Washington, Hamilton and this new generation of thinkers, writers and fighters seek to wash out the British and start anew.

Similarly, a rising tide of youth against a sea of tyranny, written from the hand of a man who has stepped forward, challenging a defiant series of expectations and prejudice, seems to have brewed a perfect storm which is now, as viable and potent as ever. Originally debuting in the Obama era – the first black president, to this modern re-framing in the wall-building Trump era. A production which catapults Black, Hispanic and Asian men and women into the roles of the founding fathers and other significant white historical figures is still met with futile resistance. Hamilton has perhaps, accepting idiom, never been more vital to grasping the attention of the people, and blazing a rallying song of the masses.

And what an album of the people, where any individual number can be illuminated for its merit. An infusion of Hip-Hop, Jazz and R&B collie with Broadway belts in a manner in which could crash and smoulder, but Miranda changes the game to his rules. Miranda’s lyrical scripture is magnificent in wit, humour and potency – infusing vast genres into a harmonised balance of wonder. The original cast perhaps demonstrates the flexibility and enthusiasm of the soundtrack, from the venomous energy Leslie Odom Jr. infuses Burr throughout The Room Where It Happened to the silencing tormented emotion of Who lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story. The equally powerful Wait For It, as Odom Jnr’s descent into vendetta is bathed in the midnight brilliance of Howard Binkley’s colossal lighting. Where Hamilton perhaps cements itself as not only a piece of theatre but stunning filmmaking is with Satisfied, Goldberry’s signature moment and a defining moment for the first act. 

This cinematography, from legendary filmmaker Declan Quinn, understands marrying the two mediums in synchronised perfection. If you’ve experience Hamilton from the ‘cheap seats’ in the Gods, you were stunned by the stage and the composition. Now, live from home, you can see the detail, the brass buttons and flickers of emotion in the faces of remarkable performances. Slow tracking shots, following the direction, allows focus and clarity with little to no direct cuts or edits, emulating a one-take aesthetic. Further, the tilts in camera angles serve as enforcers – Quinn’s decision to plummet the camera commands a sense of status from key cast members Washington (Christopher Jackson) or gradually spinning for dear ol’ King George III as his seething fury and madness rises, his competency dying out, his frabjous glee descending.

Where the camera has an edge on the stage, is bringing life to Blankenbuehler’s choreography, an overlooked aspect for Hamilton. A spirituous heavy-footed show, with plenty of revolutionary speeches and thundering stomps courtesy of Yorktown, the footwork is elegant on occasion, and no movement is without design. Orchestrating the movement of often busy stages is a difficult feat, but returning to Satisfied, if it’s possible to resign yourself from the erupting sentiment, observe the intricacy of arranging the cast around a solitary figure, catapulting back in time, and how accomplished this cast is.

So, from a Brit to the Yanks on this 4th of July – embrace history, do not spurn or alter its truth – confront the atrocity, reflect on it and represent it in all of the glorious diversity one can muster. The sons and daughters of bastards, and the immigrants who founded and freed nations are still breathing, still fighting, and still suffering. And if you can, parcel history in all of musical theatre’s majesty. The, well, you may just have taken your shot and forged a piece of cultural significance which will defy expectations, and deservedly strides forth as the par excellence which is Hamilton.

Hamilton is available to stream from Disney+

SIX – Festival Theatre

Written by Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss

Directed by Lucy Moss & Jamie Armitage

History is widely written by men; no wonder we didn’t pay attention in school. Unless you have had the misfortune of a beheading or being pushed into a nunnery by your gout-suffering brut of a husband, Six is the concert musical sensation which rules the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, stormed the Westend and conquered Broadway. They may have been divorced, beheaded and died, but on stage, they thrive. 

A testament to the colossal power of a lucrative, stimulating idea and the influence of the Festival Fringe, Six descends on high to mingle with the common folk. This regal return for the wives of Henry VIII reminds us all that behind the man were six efficacious, prominent and notably individual women. All of whom deserve a damn-site more praise and attention than their historical footnotes.

Of course, the real question is: “who’s your favourite”? Which Queen deserves to lead the band, own her crown and step out from Henry’s broad shadow? Should it be the seductress Anne Boleyn; the woman who would give birth to Queen Elizabeth I? Or maybe, the Spanish mother, the O.G, Catherine of Aragon is the royal of your heart? Or could it just be those other women, the ones whose names sit on the edge of your tongue? Six has a primary concert premise, a seventy-five-minute run-time, but vivacious talent, legions of fans and a cast of undeniably skilled women befitting their crowns.  

So, roll up your Green Sleeves lords and ladies of the court, it’s a right royal rumble, for now at least. From the scintillating imagination of Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six pounds with a heart of musical theatre, but with the blood and teeth of a gig. Both Marlow and Mosses’ lyrical ability gifts the audience with ten unique numbers full of a rainbow of hilarity, affection, cattiness and fury. The vocals of the team, consisting of Lauren Drew, Maddison Bulleyment, Lauren Byrne, Shekinah McFarlane, Jodie Steele and Athena Collins has an intense, diverse range of tone, purpose and delivery.

There are raps, power ballads and break-out those glowsticks folks – we have club-house beats. It is though, Steele’s number ‘All You Wanna Do’ which has a lyricism and choreography that delves swiftly from raunchy into depraved, tormenting and a piece of artistic expression which holds context across centuries. In reverse, Haus of Holbein and Get Down shatter the glass ceiling, shake the Festival theatre and propel the audience into bursts of energetic movements, courtesy of McFarlane who channels enviable energy, a lust for life and pizazz which carries us into the shows second half.

In transitioning to the stage, minor adjustments have been taken to provide a sense of theatricality for the touring production. For those familiar with the Queen’s Fringe performances, the changes make a welcome addition, though in moments the crowns need a little polish. Chiefly, communicating pathos to the audience, emotion ramped up from a natural state, where the lyrics and vocals are equally capable of conveying the destructive abuse of histories obsession with sexualising these women.

Blasting concerns of the production occupying the venue space, Emma Bailey’s set design maintains its structure from previous years – evidence to how well-thought the original construction was. Playfully, the lighting design transforms concert dynamics, spotlights make the obvious appearance, but it is the neon, the bulb-lights and manner in which Tim Deiling’s lighting design knows precisely what temperature and shading will contrast, or indeed complement each number which heightens the show.

Before we go, before you even think we’re done; let’s mention Gabriella Slade’s costumes. Sharp stitching houses the essence of characterisation in glorious shades of attitude. It wouldn’t be a show about Queen’s, had their gowns not slain quite as mercilessly as their husband. Nor would they be anywhere without their ladies in waiting; Arlene McNaught, Vanessa Domonique, Frankie South and Kat Bax on instrumentals, McNaught also providing musical direction.

Lucy Moss & Toby Marlow have given a voice to the past, a voice which in-turn speaks for the future. Placing these icons of history in the spotlight, Six is more than a concert history lesson, it has a vaster depth than a feminist musical; Six is an example of the trials of passion, a coming together in the name of rejoice, not revenge and vitally, is a show worth losing your head over.

SIX runs at teh Festival theatre until February 9th. Tickets available from: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/six-the-musical

Photo Credit: Johan Persson