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Following a run at the National Theatre and its Olivier win for Best New Comedy earlier this year, Lee Hall’s fabulous Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour has now opened in the heart of the West End in a rambunctious production that is both incredibly touching and remarkably funny.
The play – laced with stunning musical numbers, although not strictly a musical – follows six Catholic schoolgirls en route to a choir competition in Edinburgh. This sweary, brutally honest, ragtag bunch meld together throughout the narrative to almost become symbiotic at times; and the adventures they have when they hit the city before the show form the backbone of the story.
All six leads are expertly drawn, gradually etching away at their rough exteriors to reveal naïve, impressionable and damaged young women with difficult pasts and catastrophic lives. They’re a stunning ensemble, though it is perhaps Dawn Sievewright as Fionnula who is particularly stand-out, her tough-girl act slowly falling away as she falls in love with fellow choir member, Kay (Karen Fishwick).
Collectively, the cast – most of whom originated these roles – are faultless; full of noise and bolshie turns of phrase, they’re almost incandescent on stage.
They all expertly switch between portraying the schoolgirls that have begun to unfold before us to represent other characters they meet on their booze-filled day out: teachers, bartenders, sleazy men who crack onto them and many others variations in-between.
At its core, Our Ladies is a story about the giddiness of youth, and the fearlessness that comes from living in the moment. Hall’s script lacks any sense of judgement – and it’s all the better for it.
We guarantee it won’t be long before you’re cheering on these six teenagers as they throw back Sambucas, squat over grim public toilets at service stations and eff and blind like there’s no tomorrow.
Director Vicky Featherstone’s glorious staging adds weight too. It’s gritty, and largely done without static sets. Instead, the action shifts between scenes where small props illustrate where we are at any given time: a single chair becomes a cubicle toilet, a table becomes a bar lined with shots, a bag of clothes becomes symbolic of something else entirely.
Further to this, some audience members sit at tables on stage, heightening the setting that is so integral to the smoke-filled, claustrophobia of the grimy clubs the characters frequent throughout the story.
Then, of course, there is the way the show is a celebration of femininity and the strength of womanhood. The soundtrack – bolstered by songs by ELO and Bob Marley – is performed by an all-female three-piece band that is practically on stage for the whole production; and it’s sung by our six leads, in close-harmonies of choral arrangements that make you want to air-punch alongside its rocky undertones.
Sure, it’s loud and noisy, but also full of heart and triumph. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is different to anything else in the West End currently, it’s a story is about love and friendship told in the most imaginative and idiosyncratic of ways, and it simply cannot be missed.
Tickets for Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour are on sale now. Get yours via Ticketmaster.co.uk now.