Pros: Energetic cast, strong vocals and an abundance of crass language
Cons: Perhaps a tad too long with no interval
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, named after the convent school that its characters attend, is an award winning musical based on Alan Warner’s award winning ’90s novel, The Sopranos. The only way I can think of describing this show is as History Boys, but a Scottish version with drunk, horny and vulgar teenage girls. It’s genius, sensational and definitely the best thing I’ve seen at the National Theatre this year.
Adapted by Billy Elliot author Lee Hall, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is a fast-paced rollercoaster of Sambuca, sex and sin that had me laughing out loud from the outset. The plot flows across 24 hours in the lives of six not so holier-than-thou teenage girls, and their raucous antics as they try to get to Edinburgh for a choir competition. Needless to say things don’t quite go to plan and, from trying to break into The Mantrap club to having their uniforms stolen by an aroused pubescent crook, the journey for both us and the girls is hilarious. However, along with the overflowing hilarity there is also deep tenderness, as the show puts a cracked magnifying glass over themes like loss, adolescence, pregnancy and broken homes. This reviewer may have had a wee greet towards the end. Hall’s script is punchy, hard-hitting and littered with so many vulgar and uncouth one liners it’s delicious.
You can see why this show sold out at last year’s Edinburgh Festival and then proceeded to win the Scotsman Fringe First Award, Herald Angel Award and Stage Ensemble Award. Much like several necked shots of Sambuca, the cast are intoxicating. Each girl stands out strongly on her own and, as an ensemble, they all brilliantly hit you like a Glasgow Kiss at 4am in an alleyway! Dawn Sieveright’s sexually confused leader Fionnula is resilient, Frances Mayli McCann’s wild Kylah is superb. Kirsty MacLaren as love struck Manda is divine, Caroline Deyga sensational as the unashamed and perpetually horny Chell. Karen Fishwick as the more reserved (yes there is one!) Kay, is beautifully poignant throughout, while Melissa Alee as cancer survivor Orla is tragically good. These are the six core characters, but the girls also play myriad other wacky and dodgy characters which include a nerdy boy who carries his Mom’s budgie around in a cage, a well-endowed student with no right toe and an evil sexually repressed head mistress. By the end of the show I think we’d seen about 30 characters! All six girls are the original cast from last year’s sold out run and it shows, as they are a tight ensemble with impeccable comic timing.
The vocals and harmonies are on point as the girls pump out great ELO rock ‘n’ roll hits like Don’t Bring Me Down, Mr Blue Sky and Wild West Hero. The latter being a rather emotional (see above) highlight. The music has been arranged by Martin Lowe, composer of Once and the live band, led by Amy Shackleton, does a wonderful job bashing out fun songs, weaving in the mood music and occasionally playing the odd extra.
Expertly directed by Vicky Featherstone, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is not for the easily offended. If you’re a rebel at heart, love Snake Bites at dawn (we’ve all been there) and love chasing sailors (yes you!) then I urge you to go see this wondrous and fun show.
Director: Vicky Featherstone
Adapted by: Lee Hall
Music Arranger and Supervisor: Martin Lowe
Booking Until: Saturday October 1st 2016
Box Office: 020 7452 3000
Booking Link: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/our-ladies-of-perpetual-succour