Midway through the Fringe it takes a very special show to hold attention for a full 100 minutes at a late night performance. This bright black World Premiere based on Scottish writer Alan Warner's 1998 novel The Sopranos is exactly that.
Six convent girls from the Port up north are heading to The Capital to take part in a choir competition. In their kilted convent uniform they appear on the stage set of a joint that’s half way between a bar and a club and against a backdrop of what looks like a Jackson Pollock in progress with a statue of Virgin Mary suspended miraculously in mid-air. Their exquisitely pure voices rise to Mendelssohn’s Lift Thine Eyes then all hell breaks loose!
This trip to the big city is an excuse for these sex-obsessed Catholic gals to live a little. A little? No! To live with absolute abandon – sex and booze to the power of, well, a lot. Any pretence of conformity is peeled away with the shedding of their uniforms, the fine high minded words replaced by eye wateringly course language as their crystal clear voices switch to sounding rock hard. The veil is well and truly lifted!
This outrageously wild show sits somewhere between a roaring, rollicking and enthusiastically performed music gig and a play. It is brilliantly directed by former Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Scotland Vicky Featherstone who returns to work with Lee Hall, the play’s adapter.
The dramatic part is played through a mix of direct narration and the taking on of some mercilessly caricatured male roles by the young women. These six young actors not only create an outstanding ensemble but manage to shine individually, particularly Dawn Sievewright as Fionnula, Karen Fishwick as Kay and Frances Maylli McCann as Kylah. Sievewright’s delivery of the Lamb of God liturgy and her acceptance of Kay’s ‘gift of music’ at the end is delivered from the heart.
At times the language tips into being squirmingly graphic and gruesome, particularly in the speech delivered by Melisa Allan who makes her professional theatrical debut as the vulnerable Orla. It was a baptism of fire that she survived well.
The music arranged by Martin Lowe covers a spectrum from Handel, Bach, ELO and even the theme from the old soap Brookside, played live from three discreet but extremely able musicians. Add to the mix Lizzie Powell’s lighting and you have a pounding, stomping if sometimes shocking show.
Ultimately, this funny and salacious tale is an affirming piece that points up life’s contradictions and the many facets of people’s lives that hover beneath respectability. Most important, it holds hope and redemption as these young women find out unexpected aspects of themselves as they step out in the world. But "...every little thing’s gonna be alright”!
From 18 August to 24 October 2015,then touring to Glasgow, Aberdeen, Fife, Musselburgh and Newcastle.