Following an almost frenzied response from both critics and theatregoers to the production at the National Theatre in 2016, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour will storm into the West End later this month and is expected to command similar reaction.
The musical has been adapted by Lee Hall from Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos and features music by the Electric light Orchestra (ELO). It gained a cult following from its acclaimed opening at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, subsequent UK tour and sell-out run last summer at the National Theatre. Vicky Featherstone’s smash-hit production reunites original cast members when it opens at the Duke of York Theatre later this month and we caught up with two of them.
The story follows six Catholic schoolgirls from Oban, let loose in Edinburgh for the day. Kirsty MacLaren plays a slightly naïve member of the group called Manda and told us, “They go on a journey from Oban to Edinburgh to take part in a choir competition.”
The teenagers are desperate to lose the competition so they can get back to Oban in time for the last dance at the local nightclub, appropriately called The Man Trap, which they believe to be filled with sailors and Kristy said, “It’s the story of their day, of how they find themselves and how they explore what their sexuality means. It’s about how they can just forget about what’s coming next and live in the moment.”
Alan Warner’s satirical novel became revered for its candid depiction of rampaging teenagers and with the input of Lee Hall – who is best known for writing Billy Elliot – the stage show is likely to boast an abundance of hilarious gritty accuracies.
“Working with Lee Hall has been so inspiring. He really knows how to write for this demographic and he just brings so much truth to the piece. Although it’s a comedy there is so much sadness in it, so much pathos and he knows exactly how to hit that.”
Kirsty explains that most people can relate to the girls, who are on the cusp of adulthood and filled with raging hormones and teenage angst, “I think it’s why the story has been so well received because everybody who watches it has been through that experience of not quite knowing what tomorrow is going to bring and not quite knowing what your place in the world is. I think that makes you think about your own place in the world and how you’ve come to be the person you are.”
The six girls wreak havoc during their escapade, with copious amounts of alcohol consumed along the way – something the performers have had fun developing their representations of – but it’s not just young women who are portrayed by the talented sextet of triple threat performers, as they additionally depict a myriad of incidental characters within the show.
Karen Fishwick plays Kay Clarke, who is a bit more middle class than the rest of the members of the school choir and is frequently teased about her highfaluting lifestyle. Karen also finds herself frequently having to call upon her more masculine side throughout the show however, and commented, “I don’t how it worked out that I play more men than anyone else. I seem to be constantly shape shifting but it’s so much; I love doing that. From the start, in rehearsal, we all played all of the characters and we’ve explored all of these incredible creations that we discovered from the text. It’s another thing that makes the piece so fun and vibrant. I think that’s one of the most theatrical and enjoyable things about the show for me”
The music, which is weaved into the action, includes hits by ELO played by an all female band. In fact, the cast and musicians are all women, something, which Karen tells me is unusual, but is another element that sets it aside from other West End shows currently on offer, “It’s a celebration. The room is full of incredibly talented inspiring women and that so rarely happens. They are just amazing.”
Prepare thyself for 24 hours of holy chaos. Contains singing, hilarity, sambuca and strong language!
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour will run at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 9th May until the 2nd September.