OUR LADIES OF PERPETUAL SUCCOUR | London, Duke of York’s Theatre

This all-female, rowdy, ensemble romp is a heady mix of choir concert, rock gig, musical and coming-of-age tale about sisterhood. The laughs come thick and fast as six mad sixth form girls (and a three-piece rock band) go for a wild night out on the town, the finale leading to an immediate, roaring standing ovation.

“Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour” is the name of a regional catholic girls school in 1990s Scotland, where pupils going to university or learning an instrument is rare. Except the school also happens to have an elite standard choir, that enters competitions and even makes money off CD sales. On a school choir trip to Edinburgh, the girls get a taste for freedom away from the authoritarian nuns, and all hell breaks loose.

Adaptor Lee Hall returns to the same themes of working-class students meeting high art as his most famous smash, Billy Elliott. Just as that show has the quality of a fable, so does this. Despite the hilarious shock value of the girls’ sexual exploits, underage drinking and drug abuse, the show is explicitly about the power of music, and how it unites them all in different ways. Heavier themes including abuse, poverty and terminal illness also feature in a raw and uncompromising manner.

The action takes place in a rundown, 90s disco, with some audience members sitting at chintzy tables on the sides of a dirty, multicoloured linoleum tiled dance floor, tinsel and mirror balls hanging overhead from an exposed lighting rig. Six extraordinarily talented actors play (and sing) the choir girls, lecherous men, nuns, and everyone else. At under two hours, with no interval, it’s an intense and intimate experience. Fireworks and rock choreography aside, this is a show with real heart.

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