Robert Tanitch reviews Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour at National Theatre/Dorfman
For many readers stories about schoolgirls will bring back happy memories of Enid Blyton, Angela Brazil, Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and perhaps, Mary O’Malley’s Once A Catholic.
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is Lee Hall’s adapation of Scottish novelist Alan Warner’s awarding-winning 1998 novel, The Sopranos, a celebration of ballsy, raucous, empowered young women behaving very badly.
Vicky Featherstone directed the play for National Theatre of Scotland and Live Theatre at The Traverse Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year. It won an award and has been on tour in England, Scotland and America since.
Six 17-year-old Roman Catholic schoolgirls come to Edinburgh to take part in a school choir completion. Sex-obsessed, they are determined to get drunk and lose their virginity.
The raunchy girls are a far cry from Robert Southey’s nursery “all things nice” vision of young women. But if you have read the graffiti on the walls in a girls’ sixth form common room or the graffiti on the walls of a woman’s lavatory the relentlessly rude language should be no surprise.
Lee Hall admits that his play is more like a gig than a play.
The most serious and affecting moment is when one of the girls describes an encounter with a young Swedish sailor who is in hospital and dying of cancer.
The play, the production and the acting have a raw energy. Some audiences may find 1 hour and 50 minutes without a break just a bit too exhausting.