Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 7 October 2016
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Oct 6, 2016 ****
Adapted by Lee Hall, bases on The Sopranos by Alan Warner; by National Theatre
of Scotland and Live Theatre Melbourne Festival Fairfax
Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Oct 22, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 6, 2016. Stars:****
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri Oct 7, 2016 and later in print. KH
Former Catholic schoolgirls, take heart. When compared with
the alcohol-, drug- and sex-fuelled rampage of the six choirgirls in Our Ladies
of Perpetual Succour, your real or imagined, past transgressions will look
With their secret stash of boozy beverages, the choir travels
by bus to an Edinburgh choral competition to represent their convent school that
claims the dubious honour of a ridiculously high teen pregnancy rate.
The choir’s angelic, unaccompanied voices, singing Mendelssohn’s
Lift Thine Eyes in the opening scene, belie the mischief and outrageous
behaviour that follow in Vicky Featherstone’s rollicking, hilarious and
poignant production of Lee Hall’s adaptation of Alan Warner’s 1998 novel, The
Hall’s stage narrative is episodic, with short, swift scenes
that effectively capture the frenetic energy and rapidly changing mood and
location of these unruly, dysfunctional girls over 24 hours as they hit the clubs
with the aim of getting plastered and shagged – but they express it much more
The girls punctuate their frenzied exploits with a
repertoire of tunes ranging from Don’t Bring Me Down and Sweet Talkin’ Woman by
1970s rock band, Electric Light Orchestra, to the dulcet, reverent tones of
J.S. Bach’s Agnus Dei.
The performances, peppered with constant, blasphemous
expletives, are vivid and vivacious, the six-part harmonies are thrilling and
the actors embody the frenzied, adolescent behaviour that masks the poignant
fact that the girls’ future looks grim while their present is fuelled by
despair and raging hormones.
Caroline Deyga is the brassy Chell who has faced a lot of
death in her short life, while Joanne McGuiness plays hapless Orla who
travelled to Lourdes to cure her cancer.
The feisty Kylah, played by Frances Mayli McCann, sings in a
local band but has loftier ambitions, while Kirsty MacLaren’s wiry Manda adds
milk powder to her bath to make her feel like Cleopatra.
Karen Fishwick is the prim Kay, the middle-class girl who
the others see as a goodie-goodie because she aims for university, while Dawn
Sievewright is a highlight as the audacious Fionnula who has a moment of
In addition to their primary character, each of the cast
plays multiple roles, peopling the stage with a parade of characters from
grungy but helpful pub drinkers to bemused, nightclub bouncers, bartenders and
even a nun called Sister Condom (not her real name, we presume).
The three-piece band (Laura Bangay, Becky Brass, Emily Linden)
provides tight accompaniment and the design (Chloe Lamford) combines a scruffy,
nightclub with a statue of the Virgin Mary gazing down on the girls with her
beatific smile and silent judgment.
The period of the play remains unspecified but it feels like
the 70s because of the musical references and the girls’ lack of mobile phones.
At times, the narrative is unclear and some scenes need to
be edited or excised as the show feels too long.
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is a wild ride with this gang
of grotesque, offensive but loveable characters whose appalling behaviour embodies
all we loath about teenagers, and all that we hope to nurture.