Review: OUR LADIES OF PERPETUAL SUCCOUR at the Duke of York's

I was originally booked in to see the first preview performance of Our Ladies at the National, Dorfman last August but was forced to withdraw last minute, so I've definitely waited a long time to garner hype and excitement to see this show. And did it disappoint at all? In the style of the Scottish ladies that take us through the show: "absolutely fookin' not!"

I saw a play called Glasgow Girls last year at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East and I immediately thought about how much it reminded me of the idea behind Our Ladies: both stories are obviously about Scottish schoolgirls and the trials and tribulations they face, but there's something about the way this production is devised that makes it so incredibly unique. It reminded me greatly of the kind of shows we would pull together in an A Level Drama class by throwing different pieces together, multi-roling characters, very minimal set etc. Not only does this style work well in the context of the piece (they're a group of school girls telling their own story, as stated at the top of the show), but it also just works well for the style of the story. To watch their tale play out as a standard play, it wouldn't be interesting at all, but by presenting it in this strange concert-play-fringe show hybrid, it works effortlessly well.

The girls in their school uniforms at the start of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

The story, as I say, is not the most interesting one and is definitely not the most compelling in my mind either; I wonder how much of the story is taken from Alan Warner's original novel The Sopranos which this play is based upon because the story didn't strike me as anything interesting on its own. The play follows a group of friends who go to Edinburgh for the day on a school trip because they're competing in a national choir competition, but they're given the whole day to explore the city on their own, which results in all of them trying to get as drunk and dirty as they possibly can. It's the kind of level of interesting plot that a well structured romcom movie has. It definitely leaves you thinking "what's next?", but there are no major twists and turns here and there doesn't have to be. This production relies heavily on its intelligent direction by Royal Court Theatre artistic director Vicky Featherstone and so it should, as it is fantastic.

The cast are superb as well. When I saw the show, I sat at one of the tables on the stage to really immerse myself in the action of the piece and it was a fantastic decision to make. Seeing these wonderful actresses giving such raw and hilarious performances in such close proximity definitely added to my enjoyment of the piece. Caroline Deyga took on the roll of Chell, my personal favourite character, who battles with some serious Daddy issues and a real passion for having a good time. Every time Deyga opened her mouth, I was in fits of laughter. She is so funny. 

The ensemble cast performing a rock song in Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Karen Fishwick played Kay, the kind of girl that everyone thought was a 'snooty cow' but turns out to be much more than that; Isis Hainsworth played Orla who I felt the most empathy for through the piece; Kirsty Maclaren played Manda amongst other characters and managed to distinguish her roles so distinctively that Maclaren was totally lost in the midst of the characters, which was delightful; Dawn Sievewright played Fionnula who was another girl I felt a lot of empathy for; and Katie Barnett understudied Kylah. This ensemble cast is faultless by the word's very definition and the fact that there was an understudy mixed in there too is a testament to how tight-knit the team behind this show really is. I spent the whole performance trying to work out who was the understudy by analysing the relationships being portrayed on stage, but there wasn't a hint of anything - they're a force to be reckoned with.

There's a lot of music used in the play both in context of the story and in a typical out-of-body musical theatre sense and all of that is arranged by Martin Lowe. The show uses a lot of Scottish choir songs and rock songs of years gone by and the arrangements are fantastic. Even when singing the rock songs, the ladies harmonise together as though the song were a part of their choir practice and the sounds made were so luscious, everyone melted in their seats. Chloe Lamford's design and Lizzie Powell's lighting design gives this production a look that it needed to adapt to due to its style as a piece and it worked beautifully. The whole piece feels like it's set on the dance floor of a dodgy dive bar, which is so well incorporated into the story being told.

Shit gets wild in Our Ladies of Perpetual Succout

Lee Hall and Vicky Featherstone have crafted a fantastic piece of theatre here that clearly works anywhere from Fringe theatres in Edinburgh to huge West End houses. It's a play that I don't think will be hiding away anywhere after its West End run and one that I am so glad to see flourish into one of the biggest plays of the year (as well as being an Olivier Award winner). It's fantastic to think that more casual theatregoers are being opened up to this brilliantly raw piece of art and the West End is better with Our Ladies in it.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour runs at the Duke of York's Theatre through to September 9th. You can get tickets for the show online right here.

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