Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Catholic schoolgirls go wild! The choir trip to the capital goes badly wrong. Funny, sad and raucously rude. A play about singing, sex and sambuca. Six girls on the cusp of change. Love, lust, pregnancy and death all spiral out of control in a single day. A musical play about losing your virginity and finding yourself.
Ultimately, Our ladies… is a coming of age musical. It is about a group of school girls from Oban descending on Edinburgh for a choir competition and going seriously astray when let loose on the capital for one disastrous afternoon. So, in as much as it is a coming of age, teenagers messing it up type of story, there is nothing new, but the skill and energy of the performances and the liveliness of the script takes this show to another level.
When they flounce onstage the performers all look incredibly young, and I wonder whether I have missed something and actually this is a play from the National Youth Theatre. Yet when they open their mouths to sing us their rendition of ‘Lift Thine Eyes’, clearly one of their competition songs, their crystal clear, fantastic voices betray the professional skill behind their childish faces.
And as if their singing wasn’t enough, boy can these girls act. There isn’t a weak link in this ensemble cast, and they lark around the stage playing everything from a toothless American tourist to a pervy businessman whose toe gets cut off. They are all fabulous, but standout performances come from Kirsty MacLaren playing Manda and Frances Mayli McCann playing Kylah, who manage to convey the passion, energy and darkness of their characters in a very special way.
Our ladies… is based on the Alan Warner novel, The Sopranos, and is therefore set in the 90s, which is interesting, as apart from a few costume clues the biggest giveaway of this is the lack of smartphones, texts and selfies that would have to feature in any contemporary play about teens. However, in all other ways these girls are timeless, fixated as they are on binge drinking, sex and breaking the rules.
The 90s setting also allows for the songs of that era to permeate the show, as not only can these girls sing like angels, they can also sing like pop stars, punks and rebels. The songs really add to the show, with a live band onstage, and the music both helps to tell the story and express the feelings welling up inside these hardy yet fragile girls. This is perhaps summed up best by the stripped down rendition of No Woman No Cry that finishes the show, which is so apt and beautifully done that it raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
As well as the high energy romp through the bars and A&E departments of Edinburgh, the show also gives us insight into the lives of these young women through monologues and small focused scenes. These bits are amongst the richest part of the show, and I would have liked to see more of this. So engaging are the girls that you begin to care about them and their stories and thus the snippets of information about their troubled and colourful lives feel all too brief.
Our ladies… is a very enjoyable way to spend an evening at the theatre. It is funny, touching and skilful. What they have created is a snapshot into the lives of so many young people, who believe themselves immortal, yet have to face up to the consequences of their actions in the world all too soon.