REVIEW: OUR LADIES OF PERPETUAL SUCCOUR (National Theatre) ★★★★
With the Edinburgh Fringe Festival just getting into the swing of things, it becomes a poignant moment for the cast of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour knowing that this time last year was the world premiere of their production at the intimate Traverse Theatre. One year on, they now make their debut at the National and for the majority of the cast, their London debut. Their overwhelming level of energy would make you question this stance, however.
This coming-of-age story may not be groundbreaking, with six girls making the leap between high school and adulthood. Think The History Boys meets Pitch Perfect. However, unlike the latter, this all-female cast is refreshingly gutsy and a force on stage. With the voices of angels as they sing a repertoire as wide as could be from Bach to ELO, it provides a constantly engaging contrast between this and their rebellious antics, whether it’s underage drinking and throwing up all over their uniform, to other scenes which if described would probably halt my reviewing career. Nonetheless, we don’t pity their mistakes. In fact, we almost feel liberated by their antics and it provides great nostalgia which Lee Hall brings out brilliantly in his script. That’s not to say that I was as bad as his characters, I should say.
As for the cast, the jump from the Fringe to London’s National does not phase them. Vocally, they are all powerhouses singing ELO, particularly Frances Mayli McCann with a quite frankly stunning soprano range. Another mention in particular is Dawn Sievewright as Fionnuala, who probably goes on the biggest journey morally and sexually. Her dynamic range of characterisation, from her vulnerability in her sexual awakening, to running around this playground almost with every other word a swear word, is captivating to watch and someone who I’m excited for in the future.
Whilst a more emotionally impactful conclusion was needed, the never ending chaos on stage and feisty cast of ladies is a joyful riot and just what we need in terms of musical productions right now.
Reviewed by Barry O’Reilly
Photo: Alastair Muir
OUR LADIES OF PERPETUAL SUCCOUR plays at the National Theatre until 1 October 2016