Transferring to Duke of York’s Theatre May – September 2017
Playing at the Dorfman Theatre, National Theatre until Saturday 1st October 2016
NOMINATED FOR BEST NEW COMEDY AND BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – OLIVIER AWARDS 2017
In a riot of shrieks, singing and Hooch drinking six teenage girls from Oban set out on a school trip to Edinburgh to take part in a choir competition, accompanied by teachers who we never see, but hear through the girls’ glorious imitation of a whole range of characters. They morph into barmen, shopkeepers, infuriated nuns as the day unfolds and they trip haphazardly through a series of encounters. They tackle a whole range of voices and personalities brilliantly, the faultless switching between schoolgirl and bouncer refusing entry at the door of a club a highlight amongst many.
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (the Lady the Virgin Mary) as the title and name of the imaginary convent school is just the first of many chuckles, the girls’ school year seeing a record number of teenage pregnancies, and nicknamed the Virgin Megastore. The show arrives in London after a sell-out run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, where this National Theatre of Scotland and Live Theatre co-production won several awards. Alan Warner’s novel from the nineties The Sopranos has been adapted into play form by Lee Hall, also responsible for Billy Elliot and Warhorse, and teaming up with Vicky Featherstone as director. The music has been arranged and supervised by Martin Lowe, also responsible for musical Once, and is a joy – ranging wildly from the choral opening notes of Mendelssohn’s “Lift Thine Eyes” to the toe-tapping, mike-screeching rendition of ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky”, complete with band throughout.
Amidst the flaming sambuca shots, tequila slammers and endless Hooch beers there are moments of quieter contemplation too – as popular girl Fionnula (Dawn Sievewright) considers the percentage of our lives left unlived (“we are just a tiny percentage of what we could have been”). Or as survivor Orla (Joanne McGuinness) buys shoes with her “cancer money” for best friend Manda (Kirsty MacLaren), the girl who bathes in milk powder for a luxury – calling it a “Cleopatra bath” – with her dad using the same bathwater afterwards. Seemingly good girl Kay with university aspirations (Karen Fishwick) isn’t without her own share of drama either.
At first the strong accents may be a little hard to decipher but it’s well worth sticking with these girls for the full uncensored rollercoaster of teenage discovery – grabbing life as it comes and wringing experiences out of a world which can be unfair, bewildering and beautiful.