Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, National Theatre - Review

Originally performed by the National Theatre of Scotland and Live Theatre last year, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour isn't your average of coming of age tale. Directed by Vicky Featherstone, Our Ladies follows  six pupils from a Catholic girls school who head to Edinburgh to participate in an inter-school choir contest. The six actors (who play all the other roles as well) sing the choral pieces beautifully, but at the drop of a hat, they swear and swagger with the best of them – a reminder that one's schooldays are steeped in rebellion and challenging the status quo. The pride of Ms. Jean Brodie, they're not... Upon their arrival in Edinburgh, most of the girls decide to spend their day together drinking, but Kay and Fionnula have other ideas...

Tonally, Our Ladies has much in common with Trainspotting. Asides from the obvious things like being set in Scotland and its boundless energy, all of the girls are 'outsiders' in one way or another and while drugs isn't their primary recreational pasttime of choice, sex fills their every thought – whether it's to do with the many girls they know who are pregnant, the missed opportunities they've had or their assessmemnt of the men 'available' on their home town.

As the girls naturally break up into pairs, we have a greater understanding of what makes them tick and their respective problems. Orla (Melissa Allan) has had chemotherapy on the past, but is she truly in remission? Meanwhile Kay (Kate Fishwick) has to deal with the consequences of a fun night months ago, Kylah (Frances Mayli McCann) is in a band, but she's had second thoughts about staying with them... and Fionnula questions her sexuality.

Running through the play like a golden thread are the songs by ELO. A strange choice you might say, but asides from their link to Kylah's father, their significance becomes clear in the respective scenes. When the songs occur (which is on a semi-regular basis), the show takes on the atmosphere and nature of a gig, with the stage roaring to life.

I confess that before seeing the show, I wasn't 100% certain what to expect with Our Ladies, but here is a show that doesn't depict the girls as victims of circumstance, but as people who know what they want and whose zest for life is infectious. As an arbiter of taste, the National Theatre has picked  a winner with this crowd-pleasing ode to misspent youth.

© Michael Davis 2016

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour runs at the National Theatre (Dorfman Theatre) until 1st October 2016.



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