Monday, 24 April 2017

More Ladies

Returning to my thoughts on Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, fans of the show have directed me to a variety of positive reviews that do grapple with the meaning and importance of the NTS' production. Most explicitly, in a short critique, Melanie Reid of The Times commented...

Our Ladies... is about how the most sordid circumstances of our lives are the conditions of our deliverance, because they belong to us.

It's a beautiful sentiment, and one that the play does present: in a late scene, the ladies collectively sing Bob Marley in a moment that captures the feeling of tired, resigned celebration that follows a hectic night out. 

Adding in something about the way that music
Manuel Harlan
provides the catalyst for the transformation of despair into acceptance and even triumph would clarify how the show expresses this (throughout the script, music lends depth and immediacy to the school girls' experience (exactly in the way that the Catholic school probably hoped it would (although perhaps not with the same songs taught by the school))).

But this review, from The Times (despite a rather snarky comment about Scottish accents), gives an example of how criticism can advance the discussion around theatre. Identifying a core message, and passing it on: the usual critical function of assessing the play is placed at the service of further discussion about an idea. The quality of the performances, the direction, the musical choices, are subsumed to the theatrical mission of sharing experience.

I'm not sure that I'd call the adventures of Our Ladies sordid, mind. They are just a bunch of teenagers out on the razz. The script makes a point about accidental pregnancy (not all teenage mums have a limited horizon), the dangers of old perverts and having too much to drink (and spewing over yourself at a prestigious choir competition). But this isn't sordid, especially. 

It's being a teenager. 

And there's the rub: my teenage self was a bit busy reading Latin and getting obsessive about 'cool music' (not ELO, who provide the songs). As a former teacher, I know what teenagers these days get up to (have to love my patronising tone, there). I do recognise the redemption, and the irony that it is the same school that our ladies rebel against that has given them the redemptive power of music. 

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