SIX’s non-binary star Baylie Carson on the queerness of Anne Boleyn
Author: Charlie Duncan
Baylie Carson is making history as the first non-binary actor to star in the West End production of SIX, the hit musical about the wives of Henry VIII.
Appearing as Anne Boleyn in SIX, the pop-diva-inspired musical following the lives (and deaths) of Henry VIII’s wives, is the non-binary, self-described “full goblin” Baylie Carson.
Having travelled from their home country of Australia to audition for the role in the Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow-penned smash hit, their journey has been anything but smooth.
But with a little help from a few friends, including one who’s been dead for nearly 500 years, they tell PinkNews how a musical about royalty has helped them find their feet as a neurodivergent, non-binary performer.
PinkNews: Let’s start at the beginning. You travelled over from Australia to audition for Broadway, but not specifically for this role?
Baylie Carson: I didn’t know whether it’d be Boleyn or not, but that was one of them. I think I originally came over to audition for Boleyn and Seymour. I flew over, paid for my own ticket, everything. I auditioned originally for SIX in Australia in 2019, so it’s the second time that I ever auditioned, and I was just kind of was on hold from then. I just kept the relationship open, and I knew it would be a way to get myself over to the UK.
And then I was going to come over in the pandemic, and literally the day the world shut down was my flight over for final auditions. And I was like: ‘I’m going to come and do it in May’ just on a hope and a whim. I’ve made it a work holiday.
PN: And what was it like getting the role?
CB: I cried. It’s funny because of the time difference, the news went through my agent in Australia. So they rang me at three in the morning. And then I just had to go back to bed, because it was the middle of the night, and just lie there. Just booked a principal role on the West End, and I had to go to bed.
And they told me later I was playing Boleyn, and I was like: WHAT! She’s a little menace, and that’s where I see myself. They’re this little ADHD, neurodivergent menace.
PN: You’re very open with your neurodivergence. How much of that are you able to combine with the character of Anne Boleyn?
CB: What’s so beautiful about SIX is that they cast you on yourself. I only when into the audition playing it how I could play it. And that meant that as soon as I walked into the rehearsal space, they were like: ‘This is you.’ So you’re giving yourself as an homage to the Queen. For me, the only way to play a track is to do that with elements of myself.
I was lucky because I’ve gone through such a journey with my gender and working out how to work with my ADHD and my dyslexia, so it was nice that I come into a space where could go through my second puberty with a team that was like: ‘Yes.’ I felt safe. So what I get to do on stages is the most unmasked version of myself that I could possibly be, and it’s really cool.
PN: And what does it feel to be an idol for someone who may also be going through that second puberty?
It’s crazy. That’s why I try to be open on social media, like you say. If I had someone like that growing up, it would have been the best thing ever, because it took me to the age of 31 to be comfortable.
I’m still going through it, so it’s weird to think people coming to me for advice. I’m like: ‘Let’s do it together.’
PN: What’s it like marrying your own non-binary identity with someone like Anne Boleyn, who many see as a specifically female figure, even though in this production, the character uses they/she pronouns?
I chose the pronouns she/they because they is for me, she is for her, so I can put them together. And all of those queens were pretty ballsy women. Anne Boleyn’s motto, which I have tattooed on me in Latin was: ‘Let them grumble.’ The world doesn’t matter when you just be yourself; that could not be more non-binary, ever. F**k everyone, live in your fluidity; it’s the best way to go about life. If Anne Boleyn was around today, she’d be part of the queer community. She’s anarchy.
PN: Your costume in SIX is very specifically gender fluid. How did the design process work?
As soon as I rocked up, Gabby (Gabriella Slade), who designed the costumes, was like: ‘Whatever makes you feel comfortable, within the construct of what Anne is,’ because everyone is so prolifically their characters. It was about what I felt safe in, but also paying homage to her.
PN: Would you say that you’ve learnt anything about yourself through the costuming and makeup for SIX?
When I put my makeup on, I’m a drag queen. It’s full drag. When I first started SIX, I was very masc-presenting, and I was really pushed away from my femininity; it made me feel uncomfortable, because that’s what I’d been told to be my whole life.
And then, coming into SIX, being surrounded by beautiful dresses and makeup, was about finding what I liked within femininity. SIX has been that for me â when I first started, I put drag makeup on and hadn’t worn makeup for like, two years, and I remember walking out in my costume, and I stood there and I wanted to cry because I was so overwhelmed.
And my associate director was like: “It’s armour; you’re a drag queen.” And that was just so cool, that because of everyone around me, I’ve been able to feel safe enough find what it is within that fluidity and femininity and weld it all together. And it’s been really liberating.
PN: Where do you see non-binary representation in theatre at the moment?
I’ve just come from Australia, which is like 10 years behind. There’s good people in the community there, but you have to fight.
The first thing that happened to me here was that I was embraced by the queer community. It was the coolest thing to just rock up and have that; and to see so many shows happening at the moment about queer trans experiences is amazing.
PN: And what do you hope queer fans leave SIX thinking?
Embrace who you are. The Queendom of SIX will have you, and if you want to be a part of that, and the queer community, you will be loved and embraced. Come and watch a group of really cool AFABs on stage being f**king mint. And let them grumble.
Tickets for SIX the Musical at the Vaudeville Theatre are available now.
Actual Story on Pink News
Author: Charlie Duncan