Review: ★★ Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour, Duke Of Yorks Theatre

Not one to watch with your Mum, Nan and Grandma, friends. (I almost put ‘kids’ but don’t watch it with them, either.) 

Based on 1998 novel The Sopranos by Alan Warner, and adapted for the stage by Lee Hall (creator of Billy Elliot), Olivier Award Winning Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour has reopened at the Duke Of Yorks theatre after sell out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the National Theatre.

Six Catholic Choir girls from Oban are let loose in Edinburgh for one day only. What can possibly go wrong, I hear you ask. 

Let’s break this up. Let’s talk about the actors and their performances, and then let’s talk about the content. 

The girls were all brilliant. It isn’t in any way billed as a musical and yet their acappella moments were top notch, and their choir girl innocence convincing. Their monologues were wonderfully delivered and their portrayal of what they had to portray was, as far as I could see, faultless. And that’s why they got the second star. Genuinely. 

Isis Hainsworth stood out for me. Maybe that’s because she was a child who had a serious illness and was in hospital and she spoke in such a frank and realistic manner about it – and maybe it’s the children’s nurse in me, but something about her made me watch her all the time. Her monologue about that time she kind of almost had sex with an also dying man in hospital, and her announcement (spoiler) that the cancer was back, were heartbreaking and real and despite being as explicit as the rest of the show, I enjoyed them. 

The format of the piece whereby the girls themselves played each of the people who they encountered on their day in Edinburgh made for several episodes of impersonation which were particularly amusing. In particular, the choice for Dawn Sievewright to play Fionnula and simultaneously someone she was talking to, made for a predictable ‘pivoting to switch to two sides of the same conversation’ situation. It was still funny. 

Let me be clear – I haven’t got a problem with what it is, at all. I haven’t got a problem with swear words, profanities or ‘sexual references’ – I have a problem with the show not being up front about what it is. I have a problem with the fact that you’d have a half hour long show if you took that stuff out. 

Mainly I’m disappointed though, because this wasn’t a show where the swearing was the funny or hard hiding part, or which was only about sex. It is a show that has some brilliant content, and could have been going somewhere with its story. It would have been funnier and more poignant if it had developed that story rather than wasting its own time, and everyone else’s. 

Would I recommend it? I’d struggle to. Of course, people laughed. The reviews from press night, which was the night before I actually saw it, were mostly glowing, but there is nothing, anywhere, to suggest what it’s like. Mostly, I think that the show’s own media, and particularly the press who were invited to review the show, have a responsibility to comment on the way the content is put across. Sure, it says Raucously Rude, and has a 16+ recommendation – but honestly, I know 15 year olds who know all of those words. It’s relentless and it’s lacking in genuine humour as a result of it’s incessant need to talk about sex and stick an f, or even a c, word in at every opportunity. 

Why can’t people write things and just have enough confidence in the content of the piece, to not have to make things that needn’t have been explicitly rude, just that? 

And before anyone suggests that it was just me and that I’m far too offended by things – I actually wasn’t offended. I just didn’t like it. I thought it was pointless and vulgar for no reason. The production has no interval and I can see why – in the 1hr45 minutes of explicit everything, at least 4 couples – and that was just what I saw – got up and left the theatre. If they’ll do that in the middle of a show, imagine how many more middle-of-the-row dwellers wouldn’t have bothered coming back after the interval. 

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour runs at the Duke Of Yorks theatre until Saturday 2nd September. 

Tickets are available from the Duke Of York’s Box Office or the National Theatre Website.


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