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

Oor Wullie The Musical – King's Theatre

Book & Lyrics: Scott Gilmour

Music: Claire McKenzie

Director: Andrew Panton

Being blunt, the concept of drawing on an eighty-year-old comic script – rife with slang, Dundonian heritage and is as quintessentially Scottish as Irn Bru chews and Haggis Pakora could leave a potential unpleasant taste in the mouth if done tacky. Capitalising on nostalgia is by no means a new fad, and Oor Wullie, aye that annual yer granny gets you which you never bothered to pick-up has been delighting kids, and big ones across Scotland for decades. It would also seem, that with the right knack, embracement and know-how, Oor Wullie is a fandabidozi musical.

Coherently nostalgic, yet modern, Claire McKenzie and Scott Gilmour craft a sentimental production which captures a thick vein of Scottish humour while pumping it full of enthusiastic energy, maintaining the comic’s origins, and ensuring a modern spirit of inclusion. Frankly, the coming months will be a trying period for us all, particularly those who may not ‘look’ Scottish enough, thankfully we can look to the past to hopefully lead our future.

Young Scot Wahid, whose parents originate from Pakistan, starts a new school in a country where he has always called home, even if fellow students seem confused about his origins. Finding solace in the library, under the watchful eye of the librarian Dudley, a touching reference to original animator Dudley D. Watkins, Oor Wullie lands himself in trouble again, emerging from the very annual Wahid finds solace in. No longer in Auchenshuggle, Wullie and the gang must adapt to this peculiar world. Through Kenneth Macleod’s vivid designs, directly out of the Sunday Post, emphasising the comic roots for the characters with layers upon layers of colour, effects and one very special Wullie Wagon.

Lifting the skirt of risqué, Oor Wullie capitalises on the countries passionate thirst for double entendres, in-jokes and having a belter of a time. None of the jokes feels harsh or targeted, levelling off as safe for the whole family. The entire cast achieves a brilliant sense of comic timing, particularly Dan Buckley’s Bob and Ann Louise Ross as the charmingly befuddled PC Murdoch. The cheeky chappy himself Martin Quidd tackles the role of Wullie, exaggerating to accentuate the comic-strip background. His chemistry with the entire gang is tangible, but with a touching reflection found in Eklovey Kashyap’s Walid offers a real sentimentality amidst the frolic and fun.

Course, it wouldnae be right to celebrate eighty years of Scotland’s favourite son without a little music, now would it? McKenzie’s musical composition carries Gilmour’s lyrics well, capturing the overall tone of the production. Though a mixed lot vocally, there’s a communal sense to the vocals rather than a polished feel, almost folky. Standout numbers offer a fleshed-out role for Leanne Tarynor’s brilliantly portrayed Basher Mackenzie, and what may at first raises eyebrows as the gang don saris, is a meticulously well-structured number, with taste, humour and delightful choreography courtesy of Chi-San Howard.

All across Scotland Oor Wullie could be found perched upon his pale from the cobbles of Edinburgh to the high streets of Dunfermline and was an expression of the astonishing artistic talents of over two-hundred designs. Now, here is the chance to meet the lad face-to-face, leaping from his two-dimensional form, with a breath of life befitting his cheeky demeanour.

Review originally for Reviewshub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/oor-wullie-the-musical-kings-theatre-edinburgh/

Photo Credit – Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Banff Mountain Film Festival – Festival Theatre

For many years now a Canadian treat has found itself a warm home in the centre of Edinburgh, as the Festival Theatre hosts the Banff Mountain Film Festival in the shadow of our very own Arthur’s Seat. An international film competition, originating back in 1976 from the Canadian town of Banff, Alberta, the Mountain Film Festival celebrates upwards of 300 films, whittling them down to a final competing set which tours globally.

Promoting two spectacular programmes, labelled Red & Blue, Banff Mountain Film Festival moves from a simple evening affair into an experience for the whole day/weekend. This evening, witnessing the Red programme first-hand it cannot be stressed how envious you feel knowing others in the theatre were smart enough to catch both programmes. An evening of accomplished filmmakers captures the mind-boggling intensity of human endurance, far-flung cultures, and on occasion, our compassion towards one another and the environment around us.

There’s little which can be gained in reviewing the films showcased at the event, as the quality of each is superb. What is striking, however, is the variety in which the audience find themselves sampling. If onlookers view this as an event purely for the climbers, extreme sports fanatics or hikers – you couldn’t be more mistaken. Banff has polished their festival into a welcoming environment, with brief, but efficient live interludes to introduce film segments and handle this evening’s most important aspect; giveaways.

Particular highlights which, in essence, capture the event’s atmosphere spectacularly are the found in Danny Day Care, Reel Rock: Up to Speed and a near feature-length tour edit of Sarah Outen’s four-year journey across the globe. A tremendous piece, not only as an example of the human condition but of time-lapse film making keeps the audience on tenterhooks for the entirety of the film. Other films provide a fount of knowledge, both for the accomplished enthusiast and those of us spooked by the heights – and on occasion, a whole heap of unexpected hilarity. 

It isn’t all about the big-budget however, select small-scale productions still invigorate a sense of adventure, containing the sort of fear-inducing stunts which would panic any mother. Celebrating dedication, Thabang offers an account of Thabang Madiba’s dedication and eventual pay-off, becoming the first black South African to represent the country in running. Touching, with multiple first-hand interviews, it’s an accomplished piece which opens our eyes to sporting legends and competitors we hadn’t known existed. 

Still, at the heart of it all there’s an element of business, but a tasteful display rather than corporate. Transforming the festival into a full-blown event, people taking inspiration from there films, or even just keen beginners can find merchandise for Banff themselves, and the occasional piece from other suppliers and sponsors of the events.

Whirring, it transforms the Festival Theatre in a peculiar way not traditionally associated by many of the traditional theatre crowd. An award-winning lineup, with an award-winning team of producers, runners, hosts and event staff – there’s little wonder why the Banff Mountain Film Festival draws in a diverse crowd of eager film watchers into Edinburgh, finding itself as an annual tradition awaiting discovery for many more.

Tickets for the Banff Mountain Film Festival can be found at: https://www.banff-uk.com/tickets

Banff Mountain Film Festival finishes it’s Scottish tour in Glasgow King’s Theatre on February 25th