Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Posted by Laurence Green

Laurence Green reviews Lee Hall's, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour playing at the National's Dorfman auditorium


It is hard to believe that Lee Hall, the man who created arguably the greatest British musical of all time, namely Billy Elliot, should be responsible for bringing to the stage a show as crude and unfunny as Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (National’s Dorfman auditorium).

Adapted by National Theatre of Scotland from Alan Warner’s raucous Nineties novel The Sopranos, this coming-of-age tale follows six teenage girls on a convent school trip to a choral competition in Edinburgh. Their angelic voices are in stark contrast to how they set out to enjoy their evening. “Fuck the singing. Let’s just go mental” one cries. Let loose, they forget about the prize and proceed to shop, drink and flirt outrageously, falling in with a variety of seedy locals.

Their antics are sweary – the language here really is filthy – as they face up to love, lust, pregnancy and death over the course of a single day. But I found the characters somewhat stereotypical and not particularly engaging.

However, the show bursts into life during the musical numbers which are sung with gusts by the young cast and range from Mendelssohn and Handel to ENO and Bob Marley with the musical placed at the back of the stage. Indeed I had the feeling the show would have worked better entirely as a musical.  

Director Vicky Featherstone draws convincing performance from a versatile ensemble. Dawn Sievewright’s Fionnula is an unexpectedly complex leader and Melissa Allan’s Orla a battle-hardened cancer survivor, Kirsty MacLaren a depressive Manda, scooping powdered milk into her bath while pretending she’s Cleopatra, and Karen Fishwick as the ambitious, cello-playing Kay.

But I do wish this fearless portrait of friendship, rivalry and teenage kicks fuelled by songs and sambuca, had ditched its expletives-ridden script in favour of something more endearing and involving.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Playing at the National Theatre’s Dorfman auditorium runs until 1 October 2016

Box Office: 020 7452 3000

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