At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that butter wouldn't melt in the mouths of the six-strong Catholic schoolgirl choir onstage throughout Vicky Featherstone's National Theatre of Scotland production of Lee Hall's freewheeling adaptation of Alan Warner's 1998 novel, The Sopranos. They sing so sweetly, after all, do Orla, Chell, Kay, Manda, Kylah and Fionnula,
Once they're off the leash and with time to kill in the big city before the choir competition they're doomed to take part in, voices of angels morph into a potty-mouthed chorus running riot through any bar that will have them en route to a series of everyday epiphanies.
Featherstone and Hall have their unruly charges act out their adventures amidst the glorious tack of the Mantrap, the tellingly named late-night Oban dive the girls call home. From this set-up we see their messy lives in close-up as they cling to each other for comfort in the face of a stream of increasingly ridiculous men. Set in the girl-powered 1990s and punctuated throughout by songs old and new arranged by Martin Lowe and accompanied by an all-female band, on one level this is a pre-Glee St Trinian's for the X-Factor age.
As fearlessly played by Melissa Allan, Caroline Deyga, Karen Fishwick, Kirsty MacLaren, Frances Mayli McCann and Dawn Sievewright, it is far more serious as the girls minesweep every little bit of life they can in a work that's both anthem and elegy in a getting of wisdom that celebrates life even as it breaks your heart.
Runs until August 30, then tours.
The Herald, August 22nd 2015