Adapted by Lee Hall, the creator of Billy Elliot, and based on the novel The Sopranos by Alan Warner, comes the new musical Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. It follows the story of six Catholic schoolgirls, from the small town of Oban, let loose in Edinburgh for a day.
It’s performed by an all-female cast and mixes drama with unadulterated comedy, exploring the way in which children on the brink of adulthood deal with very adult problems. Our Ladies is a coming of age story complete with filthy gags and slick staging. It is rough around the edges, but still a breath of fresh air.
The core cast of six run the show incredibly, cleverly multi-roling using props and voices to create an ensemble of characters and tell tales of both past and present. They narrate and act their own stories, and it feels intimate and honest as a result.
Each girl has their own cross to bear, giving the play more substance and a certain kind of cutting realism that musicals often omit – however it doesn’t bring down the upbeat tone. We aren’t given long to ponder Shell’s (Caroline Deyga) dead father or cancer patient Orla’s (Isis Hainsworth) harrowing hospital sex story before we launch into another cheery ELO number. Much like life, the girls have fun despite their tragedies.
As they stomp and whip their way through the stylish but amusing choreography by Imogen Knight, delivering lines with perfectly on-the-nose humour, the cast belt out rock numbers and sing delicate hymns with pitch-perfect harmonies. Some voices are stronger than others, Francis Mayli McCann is particularly memorable for her powerful notes during Jeff Lynn hits ‘Mr Blue Sky’ and ‘Sweet Talkin’ Woman’, but all have something different to offer. Deyga and Kirsty MacClaren stand out with their charismatic characterisations of Shell and Manda, while Dawn Sievewright delivers most of the hilarious obscenities as Fionnula. Together they are tight-knit and don’t miss a beat.
While it may feel messy in places, and lacks the finesse and allure of a large-scale West End musical including interchanging sets, sparkling costumes and all the trimmings, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, at just an hour and forty-five minutes long, offers an authentic and funny theatrical experience; and its no-frills approach adds to the raucous vibe.
Directed by Vicky Featherstone, this production is a laugh-a-minute, heartfelt story about six girls just having a good time. Watching their escapism becomes our escapism, and their comradery and kinship is a joy to watch. For an evening of feel-good fun, scattered with songs you already know the lyrics to and specks of self-reflection, Our Ladies is unmissable.
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is playing at The Duke of York’s Theatre until 3 September.