The West End (Britain’s Broadway) is renowned for huge spectacle shows like Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables. But, on occasion, we stumble upon some smaller, lesser-known shows like Five Guys Named Moe or The Wind in the Willows. They spring out from all sorts of places, some are decades old, while others are brand new, mere toddlers stepping out into the big wide world of jazz hands and group harmonies. One such example of an infant production is Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (adapted by Lee Hall). Based on the novel The Sopranos (nothing like the TV show) by Alan Warner, Our Ladies won the 2017 Olivier award for Best New Musical, and after watching it I can see why.
Our Ladies is a play from the National Theatre of Scotland and started with a sold-out season at the National Theatre and the Edinburgh Fringe before getting transferred to the West End (The Duke of York’s Theatre) for its limited run from the 9th of May 2017 to the 2nd of September 2017.
Our Ladies is about a group of six teenage girls who attend a Catholic school and are participating in a choir competition in Edinburgh. For the girls, this is a big chance for them to get out and have fun whilst letting loose in the capital, with only one rule: be back at the hotel in full school uniform by six o’clock. Spanning 24 hours, the play shows how the girls spend their raucous day, all the way up to the local club ‘The Mantrap’ after the competition.
“Songs such as ‘Mr Blue Sky’ and ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ are performed, leaving you feeling almost as if you are at a gig rather than a West End show.”
Although technically classed as a play, Our Ladies features thirteen songs (played by a live all female three-piece band on stage). There are the choral numbers where the girls make fun of the words, picking out ones that could be construed as rude in a different context, as well as music from the genre of 1970s pop-rock (predominantly by the Electric Light Orchestra). Songs such as ‘Mr Blue Sky’ and ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ are performed, leaving you feeling almost as if you are at a gig rather than a West End show.
The all-female cast lead the show fantastically well, performing multiple roles from pregnant classmates, to their bossy choir teacher, “Condom”, and even creepy men inviting them back to apartments.
Before I go on, I feel I should give a brief rundown of the characters for you:
Manda (played by Kirsty MacLaren) is little and young looking. She lives with her mum and won’t shut up about her sister.
Chell (played by Caroline Deyga) lives in a council estate and has “a lot of tragedy” in her family. Throughout the play, we hear about how she’s had several dads who’ve all disappeared in the end.
Orla (played by Isis Hainsworth) is from the villages. Orla was diagnosed with cancer and has recently returned from an extended stay in the hospital. Quiet and shy, Orla does what she can to impress the other girls, even if it means lying.
Kylah (played by Frances Mayli McCann) sings in a rock band called ‘Thunderpup’ but dreams of breaking out as a solo artist. She says that she’s inspired by Electric Light Orchestra, hence the use of their music throughout the show. She’s bit more well-off; her parents own their own house.
Fionnula (played by Dawn Sievewright) is the cooler member of the group. She lives in a council house bought with the inheritance from when her grandparent died.
Kay (played by Karen Fishwick) is the outsider of the group. Her parents are much more well-off and she’s determined to do well in school and get into university.
“This play reveals what it’s like to be a teenage girl who’s expected to be something she’s not.”
As the girls embark on their day out in Edinburgh, we start to learn more about the characters; their secrets, their weaknesses and, most importantly, their relationships as friends. This play reveals what it’s like to be a teenage girl who’s expected to be something she’s not. The expectations on the girls from the school itself to be well-behaved and well-dressed go out of the window from the beginning and the expectations from themselves to be raucous and, of course, sexually active, are slowly broken down as we discover more about them at the same time as they do. There are moments which are equally heart-warming and heart-breaking, and others that have the audience laughing their way out of their seats.
With incredibly rude jokes, bad language and countless sex references, Our Ladies is not for the faint-hearted. It was a fantastic piece of theatre. At the same time racy and endearing, it was a genius adaptation. While there is no news of the show doing another run, I hope that they do. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend that you go and see it. It’ll be the best 24 hours of your life.