Review by Carly Fisher
Based on Kate Pankhurst’ book by the same title, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is an uplifting, fast paced, history laden work that will inspire women of all ages.
When schoolgirl Jade (Kudzai Mangombe) gets lost in a closed off wing of a museum on a school trip, history quite literally jumps off the walls in an attempt to remind her of just how wonderful and powerful women throughout history have been.
We open to find a group of teachers suffering a fate that all teachers I am sure know too well…the dreaded school excursions/trips and the craziness of trying to keep up with too many, mostly misbehaved, all totally excitable kids. It’s our first taste of Chris Bush, Miranda Cooper and Jennifer Decilveo’s original music and ‘Quiet Children’ absolutely sets the tone for the treat of a show in store. Equally, it is our first glimpse at the production design - that is, set and costume - by Joanna Scotcher and instantly the intricacy, vibrancy and cleverness of the design makes the world we are entering pop. The design is polished and elaborate in a way that no other fringe show I’ve seen here yet is. This show is a stand out.
The four teachers quickly transform into female pillars of history and continue to transform throughout. The small ensemble of performers - Renée Lamb, Christina Modestou, Jade Kennedy, Kirstie Skivington - expertly navigate the audience through decades of female history and introduce us to characters including Amelia Earhart, Mary Anning, Frida Kahlo, Emmeline Pankhurst, Gertude, Rosa Parks, Agent Fifi, Anne Frank, Marie Curie and more. With each new character, a new bright and beautifully detailed costume emerges to visually delight. However, you could almost be forgiven for overlooking that detail because it is hard to move your focus from the precision with which each performer tackles a different characterisation, different physicality and different accent for each of the women they portray. The cast is excellent and a real showcase of the kind of talent you can see here at the Edinburgh Fringe.
The musical is certainly cheesy and whilst there are parts that could undoubtedly be toned back slightly, for the demographic that the show is most suited to (pre-teens 10+), the show is a perfect taster into the lives of some of history’s greatest. That said, adults too will easily enjoy the show - it is boppy, clever and filled to the brim with very bright talents.
Modestou was for me, vocally, the stand out of the show - her riffs and belts executed perfectly. Lamb brought a reverence to her characters that made each endearing and easily approachable - her performance was vivid and beautiful. Kennedy is tasked with bringing to life some of the characters that many audience members would be less familiar with, particularly Sacagawea and with her excellent characterisation, she guides the audience into learning more smoothly. Finally, Skivington stands out most for her excellent characterisation, each woman she portrays brought to the stage with a meticulous command of accents, physicality and beautiful vocals to boot. The four are strong and expertly cast for this show.
With the production team behind Six bringing this latest piece to the fringe, it is clear that they have an eye for a good thing. I would not be surprised to see this show scheduled into educational programs the world over. Because as well as wonderful music (which you can stream now by the way) and gorgeous production design, this show has an important message to share…you may not know yet how you are going to change the world, but you best believe that you absolutely can.