Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

By Tyler

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On our first off day of the trip, I decided that I wanted to go and see a show that was specific to the West End and might not or would not hit Broadway for a while. I decided to go to this show because nobody else from the group was going, and I read up on what material was being presented. Originally touring and being sponsored by the National Theatre of Scotland, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour was offered an extended stay at the Duke of York’s Theatre after having sold-out performances while on tour. This musical follows the story of six catholic school girls who are in the schools’ choir. After school and on their own independent time, the stereotypes of what catholic schoolgirls “act like” goes away, and the girls give into cussing, booze, and sex. When on a trip to perform at the regional choir competition, the girls go a little too far with their raucous activity and get into some big trouble. After reading what I just wrote, who wouldn’t want to experience this show, right?

While the show was funny, the show was hit and miss for me; it was a wonderful experience for one viewing. Here is what I found effective: the humor. This show is built upon unexpected language, themes, and activities. There were so many times where I found myself laughing (and I don’t laugh at everything). One woman in the cast reminded me a lot of Rebel Wilson, and her delivery was such that it was hard not to laugh at. Also, the cast “doubled up” on parts; simultaneously, some girls were playing boys. Albeit the girls portrayed stock-boy characters, their language, mannerisms, and groupwork to portray a man was hilarious. Another effective area was being real. Even though this show is racy, it is real because of what is being presented. We, as humans, need to stop shunning conversations about sex, alcohol, and rude language aside and address them. This is exactly what this show is doing. At first, I felt uncomfortable watching the spectacle before me, but then I questioned why I was uncomfortable with it. Was it because there was more cussing than a David Mamet play? Was it because of the slang language describing genethliac? I was only comfortable because this an unconventional thing to talk about, at least in American culture. I found all the explicit references to be effective to combat to institutionalization of “uncomfortable themes.” Finally, I found the lighting to be a powerful addition to the production. Much like the set, it was very simple and honest, but when song numbers started playing they shifted from the bland (catholic schoolgirl), incandescent feel to a bright (catholic school girl… after school), vivid, and flashy feel. Reds, Yellows, Blues, Pinks, Purples, and every color in between was represented and played well off the action going on stage.

While I did appreciate the thought behind the plot and language, there was a few aspects of this production I found to be ineffective. The actual storyline it a bit confusing, for starters. Due to the changing of characters and the minimalistic set, there were sometimes where I didn’t know what was going on. I read the synopsis after the show and that helped me piece together what I saw. Because the actresses were Scottish, it could have been a dialect barrier that prevented me from hearing, but even with that in mind the story should still be simple to follow. Another aspect I found to be ineffective was the music. All the music was taken from other artists (like Jeff Lynne, Bach, Handel, etc.), and it lost the sense of being personable to me. While hearing classics adapted to a six-part woman choir was beautiful, there is something truly special about having original music composition. Some of the best musicals—Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Chicago—were all originally composed and lyricized; people parody that music now. By the music not being originally, it just felt like a glee club to me (which might have been the appeal they were going for). Lastly, and perhaps the biggest reason why I found the show to be ineffective, was because I felt like there was something missing. This one-hour-forty-five-minute show covers a lot, but by the end I still felt like I needed a closure. This thought I am thinking of might not apply to other people, however I still felt like the script was underdeveloped. There was no one memorable thing I could take away from this show to tell people about. While this show was very different from any American show I have seen, I wish I were happier about seeing it than I am.

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Overall, this was an adequate production. I am a Theatre History, Literature, and Criticism student, so I am constantly wanting more out of a show than the face value I am presented. I was not able to connect with this piece like other shows I have seen before. This production provided a haven for the audience to sit back and enjoy the show (which I appreciated), but it did not provide me with an opportunity expand my knowledge of the script beyond what I saw.

View the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XtG1DaCweE