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Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (Traverse, Edinburgh)

Lee Hall and Vicky Featherstone team up on a blistering adaptation of Alan Warner's The Sopranos

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Karen Fishwick (Kay), Caroline Deyga (Chell), Melissa Allan (Orla), Frances Maylie McCann (Kylah), Kirsty MacLaren (Manda) and Dawn Sievewright (Fionnula)
© Manuel Harlan

Well, the History Boys can do one. Give me the six Catholic schoolgirls tearing round Edinburgh in a sambuca-soaked, sexed-up frenzy any day of the week. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour - a musical adaptation of Alan Warner's much, much loved novel The Sopranos - is a trumpet blast for teenage girls everywhere. It bears out all the fearless exuberance of youth.

There's a directness to Lee Hall's stage version that turns the big city adventure of these girls into a great pub table tale and invites us into the gang as a result - and what a gang to be part of. These small-town convent school choristers, supposedly due at a major choral competition that evening, but with better, boozier plans in mind, make for brilliant company.

They're savvy and fierce and salacious - so full of life they might burst any minute. Whether they're downing decanted Bacardi Breezers at the back of the bus, storming karaoke bars in the middle of the afternoon or just telling the trail of leery older men slavering at their short skits to get tae fuck, these young women deliver a lesson in seizing the day and squeezing every last drop from the moment. Part of the joy of Vicky Featherstone's unfussy National Theatre of Scotland production is just watching the butter melt in their mouths: they sing like angels in tartan skirts, then swear like devils in denim shorts.

'The play-with-songs style works a blinder'

Alright, so it can feel like storyline bingo. In just six girls and 24 hours, we get cancer, coming-out and cherry-popping, with a pregnancy and several identity crises thrown in for good measure - but maybe that's just what your teenage years feel like; one life-changer after another with very little let up in between.

Mostly, though, it's a glorious portrait of friendship and sisterly solidarity, made by its tales of sex, drink and dubious behaviour and its frank working-class humour. Hall writes particularly well about the constraints of a small seaside town, where the limits of one's ambition involves shacking up with a submariner on shore leave.

The play-with-songs style works a blinder, swinging wildly from Martin Lowe's delicate arrangements of Mendelssohn and Handel, to the boisterous, layered belters of the Electric Light Orchestra. That's life, though, isn't it? As much about the sublime as about the scuzz (and the sex). If the six girls learn anything it's that.

In part, though, you're just marvelling at these actresses: all gutsy, gung-ho and flat-out funny, but also tender and anxious and poignant. It's as good an ensemble as you'll ever find. Dawn Sievewright's superb as the hard-shelled Fionnula and Melissa Allan's Orla, just back from Lourdes on account of her cancer, is as steely as she is frail. Karen Fishwick, sweet as the middle-class Kay, proves an excellent caricaturist, lampooning the various male letches of Edinburgh, young and old. Who cares about them though? They're not a patch on these sisters of succour.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour runs at the Traverse until 31 August, then tours