Review: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

The Duke Of York’s Theatre
5*
Running until Sept 2nd 2017

The Duke of York’s Theatre is an auspicious one in the arts industry, not least because it witnessed the dreaming up of Equity, the Performers Union.  Some performers may be slightly intimidated by this weighty history, but evidently NOT the cast and crew of ‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’.  With the piece set in the 1990s, I couldn’t help but feel twinges of nostalgia, this was the decade that saw my own teenage years and at times I cringed in painful recognition at the foibles of the riotous schoolgirls on stage.

The Front of House Staff at the theatre are as welcoming as can be.  Classic 90s tunes were pumping through the tannoy as everyone arrived, most of us surprised at how well we remembered the words to ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’.  As it’s mentioned in the script, the (in)famous 90s alcopop ‘Hooch’ is sold at the bar at £5 a bottle.  This is probably more than you paid for it ‘back then’, but I dare say it will have much the same effect.  Though I don’t recommend too much of it, as with a showtime of 1 hour and 45 minutes with no interval…well, you know what I’m getting at.

There are cabaret style chairs and tables on stage for the brave, set in the club that sees much of the energetic action.  The cast arrive on stage with no fanfare, just a solid motivation to come and tell a story, and tell it they do.

The smartly dressed, angelically voiced Catholic schoolgirls come centre-stage, their singing so sweet it belies what is to come. They quickly revert to their true selves, and in one expertly choreographed sequence, literally shed their schoolgirl skin to reveal their ‘going out’ clothes underneath. Unleashing themselves at the world at a rate of knots, taking no prisoners, you know very quickly that you’re in for quite a trip.

They career around Edinburgh killing time before a school choir competition, each actor sporadically taking on the role of a different character with ease and unending skill.  The usual teenage tribulations are here; love, life, school, family and trying to work out the purpose of it all.  I couldn’t single out any one cast member as they all work so deftly and confidently it is a true ensemble piece, but I can pay a compliment to Dawn Sievewright and Karen Fishwick for the most loving and fresh depiction of lesbian love that I’ve seen on stage for quite a while.  Expertly supported by musicians live on stage the songs boom through the auditorium as though waking up every cell in your body for a ‘re-set’.  Director Vicky Featherstone assaults all of your senses and leaves you better off for it.

This is perhaps not a show for the faint hearted, but for anyone who has ever asked ‘Why?’,  anyone who has ever attempted growing up, and anyone who has ever realised that it’s perfectly OK to be yourself.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour runs until 2nd September.  Book now

OLOPS. Kisty MacLaren (Manda), Caroline Deyga (Chell), Frances Mayli McCann (Kylah), Isis Hainsworth (Orla), Dawn Sievewright (Fionnula). Photo credit Manuel Harlan

© Jezza Donovan 2017

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