Friday, May 26, 2017

‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’ by Lee Hall

26 May 2017

Last Saturday we were at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London to see ‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’ - Lee Hall’s stage adaptation of Alan Warner’s novel ‘The Sopranos’. Vicky Featherstone’s National Theatre of Scotland/Live Theatre, Newcastle production, first seen in the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival is now enjoying a West End run. It tells the tale of a group of schoolgirls from Oban visiting Edinburgh to take part in a choir competition. But these girls are not really there for the singing: their day out is a riot of drink, drugs, sex and extremely bad language, set to a soundtrack of classic ELO songs. Six young actors play both the six main characters and all the people they encounter in Edinburgh, narrating their story to us as well as playing out the key scenes – as if they are recounting the events to friends after returning home. This technique reminded me of John Godber’s ensemble plays for Hull Truck Theatre Company, such as ‘Shakers’ (reviewed here in November 2009) and ‘Teechers’ (reviewed here in September 2010). The play also could also be seen as a Scottish, female alternative to Alan Bennett’s ‘The History Boys’, The close-harmony singing of the Our Ladies cast is excellent – both in the school choir songs and the ELO numbers (for which they are accompanied on stage by a three-piece band). Lee Hall’s writing is sharp and often very funny. But I thought the show overplayed the shock value of Catholic schoolgirls running wild: the sex and violence was a bit unrelenting and most of the characters’ stories ended very bleakly. There were excellent performances and great music but it was a play that seemed to want to shout at its audience too loudly for too long.

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