Duke of York’s Theatre, London – until 2 September 2017
Bold, brash and rowdy Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour quite rightly comes with a warning – but it is also surprisingly sincere and poignant. Based on Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour brings to mind as being the female version of The Inbetweeners, in which the story follows six teenage girls as they escape the confines of their catholic school and their school choir for a day of chaos and mayhem.
Adapted by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), the script is sharply funny, rude and yet is surprisingly revealing about the vulnerabilities that lie beneath each of the girl’s attitudes – from cancer to sexuality it is a story of growing up in a difficult world and is a beautiful balance of humour and poignancy.
While the balance is there between both the humour and poignancy, at times in Vicky Featherstone’s production it can come across as too sharp for example seen when when Orla talks about her experience of receiving cancer treatment is then switched to other members of the group getting drunk, which breaks the moment rather abruptly. Moments of poignancy within the play could have been developed further to help the audience understand the characters better.
Yet despite this, the audience are still able to take all of the characters to their hearts thanks to the wonderful performances of all the cast from Caroline Deyga’s wonderfully brash and honest Chell to Karen Fishwick’s initially quiet and introverted Kay before emerging as quite rebellious in her own way that none of the other characters suspected. All of the cast interact well together to create their own very individual impact on both the characters and the journey on which they embark on – making it feel believable and natural.
The use of music is used to great effect, highlighting certain points in the story and adding to the sense of rebellion that is present from beginning to end. There are some fabulous interpretations of songs such as ‘Mr Blue Sky’ and ‘Don’t Bring me Down’ that add to the sense of fun and the celebration of being alive and free (even for a brief time). The harmonies between all of the cast are also of a high standard – as heard during renditions of ‘Lift Thine Eyes’ and ‘Angus Dei’ for example, sounding exactly like the choir that they are supposed to be.
While the humour is used effectively to add an extra hint of poignancy, particularly during Orla’s monologue discussing her ‘first time’ experience with a boy also receiving treatment at the hospital, it also begins to wear slightly thin towards the end of the show as if the play has used up all its energy too soon.
Essentially it is a play that is not just one story but several pieced together and Vicky Featherstone has created a production that while shows the character’s as individuals it also reveals just how strongly they are bonded no matter what life throws at them.
The production is honest and laugh-out-loud funny in places with a hint of sentimentality that keeps the audience fully engaged throughout. But it has to be said that its sense of humour is perhaps not one that everyone will appreciate or find to their taste (me for example) and yet somehow that still makes Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour endearing because of its brutal honesty.