Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour review: A riotously funny and poignant coming-of-age tale ★★★★

Following a sell-out run at last year's Edinburgh Fringe, the National Theatre of Scotland's musical about six rebellious convent schoolgirls comes to London

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Alan Warner, who wrote the novel on which this play is based, has said of watching his creations made flesh and blood: “Imagine… this dream of yours… is being rendered just as you once saw it inside your head.”

To which, after having cried with laughter throughout this riotously funny yet poignant musical play, the only sensible question would seem: “What did you have before you went to bed?”. Shortly followed by “…can I have some too?”Because saying it’s entertaining barely scratches the surface. The young cast deftly (and drunkenly) bulldoze their way through difficult social plights, weaving in raucous singing and enthusiastic cursing. If they were paying into a swear jar, everyone would be flat broke. 

Dawn Sievewright (Fionnula), Frances Mayli McCann (Kylah), Kirsty MacLaren (Manda), Melissa Allan (Orla), Karen Fishwick (Kay); photos by Manuel Harlan

Adapted by the National Theatre of Scotland, Warner’s 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. “F*ck the singing. Let’s just go mental,” one cries. And boy do they; marching their way through drunken excesses that would have made Oliver Reed proud.


 Book tickets for Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour from the Radio Times box office


But it’s the underlying anguish that elevates this to something more than just a juvenile playground. Buffeted by fate and circumstance, their hopes and fears, joys and loves (not to mention hooch and spunk) defiantly shine through, to bear them aloft as the most unlikely of heroines. By not pitying their trials nor judging their flaws, ultimately this is a story about the messiness of growing up, and how we each do the best we can.

There are fantastic performances all round. And it’s refreshing to see six strong female leads, backed by an all-female band, unapologetically portraying all the unvarnished thoughts and desires of young girls finding their way to adulthood. All six remain on stage throughout, without an interval, maintaining the high energy and never allowing the vibrancy to dip.

The musical numbers are sung with gusto, segueing seamlessly from the punchy dialogue and ranging from Mendelssohn and Handel to ELO and Bob Marley. The musicians are at the back of the stage, so at times it feels like an intimate gig.

A huge amount of fun, you can easily see why Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour picked up so many awards when it was originally staged at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It will leave you raising a toast to a joyous evening – though probably from a lemonade bottle spiked with vodka, washed down with a tequila slammer.


 

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