Melbourne Festival 2016: OUR LADIES OF PERPETUAL SUCCOUR

It’s a wild and wonderful ride

By Leeor Adar

I was expecting St Trinians, but instead I was treated to something so much better. A musical theatre lover I am not, but Lee Hall’s adaptation of Alan Warner’s Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour may have cured me.

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The internationally renowned National Theatre of Scotland has indeed graced our good Melbourne Festival this year with a riotously funny, endearing and poignant show concerning the misdemeanors of Scotland’s wildest Catholic schoolgirls.

On a journey to Edinburgh for a choral competition, our girls are planning to booze, cruise and find a worthy specimen for their hormone-driven desires. Initially, their voices sing out unaccompanied to Felix Mendelssohn’s Lift Thine Eyes, but it’s a momentary holy light before the girls embark onto far wilder renditions of Jeff Lynne’s Don’t Bring Me Down and disco classic Shine a Little Love. The cast are all talented sopranos, and they heartily reimagine 70s rock and disco classics as they travel between dive bars and blow up a drug dealer’s shack with fireworks. They manage to do their mischief all the while under the watchful gaze of a Virgin Mary statue.

There is heart to this production. The desire to rise up and beyond their incestuous poverty is an ever-present theme. One character, Orla (Joanne McGuinness), a cancer sufferer and virgin until further notice, peers across the world with the gentle eyes of someone who may soon leave it. Kay (Karen Fishwick) is the local doctor’s daughter, and a university hopeful whose momentary lapse into recklessness could change her life forever.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour feels like any wild party – there are moments of pure inclusive ecstasy, and moments of poignant truths. Vicky Featherstone has directed a fluid and thoroughly engaging production to rival anything we’ve seen on the Melbourne musical stages. Featherstone’s cast gel so effortlessly it feels like these girls have known one another forever. The cast must be commended on their highly physical performances, and a further accolade must be given to choreographer, Imogen Knight, for their well-crafted movement.

Overall, the entire production team have created a show that captivated and sent their audience into fits of laughter. A standing ovation was what they received for their efforts, and I expect Melbourne will be delighted to see the National Theatre of Scotland return next year.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is performing at the Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne until Saturday 22 October. Tickets available at https://www.festival.melbourne/2016/events/our-ladies-of-perpetual-succour/#.V_iM_DJh2CQ

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