Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour – Review

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. Images Manuel Harlan.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is rather a culture shock for the blue rinse dilitantes, American tourists and urban London types taking in ‘The Scottish Play’ at the Duke of York’s in the heart of the West End.

Not that Scottish play but it is a tale full of sound and fury, so much so that the elderly New Yorker sitting next to me asked if it came with subtitles. She barely understood a word.

Which is probably just as well for Our Ladies is a bawdy tale of teenage girls out on the lash. That’s an understatement. They are bladdered from the moment they arrive in Edinburgh for a schools choir competition.

I blame the teachers…

“Let’s go mental!” They scream, a battle cry to rampage through the city bringing carnage to every bar and club they visit.

These tartan terrors take no prisoners in a day of debauchery, drinking to annihilation, drugs, sex and everything in-between.

“This is fucking ridiculous!” Too right.

Buried in Lee Hall’s adaptation of Alan Warner’s award-winning novel, The Sopranos (no gangsters but a mob of girls old before their time) is a story of troubled teens dragging themselves up any way their can.

I wanted to know more about this bunch of wayward Scots lassies who had been let off the leash, yet Hall’s girls are thinly drawn.

One is battling cancer, another is struggling with her sexuality, a third is knocked up after a fling, one of the girls dreams of making it as a singer and all see their futures as probably behind the counter at Woolies – if they’re lucky.

Their lack of opportunity, aspiration, and imagination is profoundly depressing and acutely sad. These youngsters, knocking back anything alcoholic, taking whatever is offered, have sex with anyone asking – and all, looking at them, before the age of 16 – I found terribly tragic.

But watching ‘Six Get Smashed’ is also rather tedious after the first 15 minutes of this 105-minute musical play. After your ears tune in to the girls’ strong accents, and are then assaulted by a barrage of foul language, there’s little left to enjoy but more of the same.

Our Ladies starts off angelically with the gang, smart in their convent school uniforms, standing to attention on stage and singing Mendelssohn’s Lift Thine Eyes. They really do have the most extraordinary sweet voices.

But as soon as they can the youngsters are in their civvies and ready to raise hell.

In-between their choral repertoire of Handel, Bartók, Vaughan Williams and Bach we’re entertained with a number of ELO hits and a bit of Judie Tzuke and Jimmy Cliff.

Isis Hainsworth is the most memorable as Orla, a child whose upbringing has been blighted by poverty and heartache. Now, while facing her biggest challenge, all she wants is to lose her virginity.

She almost came close while in hospital, when she made a move on a fellow patient. She tells the story, and, while overlong, it is tinged with black humour.

So, if watching a choirgirls go wild, is your thing then Our Ladies is for you. It is raucous, rude, poignant and tragic but bursting with energy.

But, I couldn’t help feeling that the production would be better suited to the Fringe rather than the West End. Lee Hall’s adaptation is thin on plot and character but the slight story does offer up some superbly performed musical numbers.

Our Ladies runs at the Duke Of York’s Theatre until September 2.

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