Published: 18/09/2015 14:57 - Updated: 18/09/2015 15:39

Decade for Lee Hall to get Our Ladies onstage

Director Lee Hall. Picture: Tommy Ga Ken Wan
Director Lee Hall. Picture: Tommy Ga Ken Wan


by Margaret Chrystall

ALAN Warner’s novel about one day in the life of an Oban girls’ choir competing in Edinburgh took writer Lee Hall a decade to bring to the stage.

Tomorrow (Friday, September 18) the Edinburgh Festival hit comes to Eden Court, bringing drama plus a mix of classical and pop music as six choir girls tell their funny, sad and outrageous stories in the musical play.

Lee Hall is the screenplay writer of the film Billy Elliot, who also wrote the lyrics for the long-running stage musical – which earned him 2009 Tony Award for best book of a musical.

He said: "It’s quite a bizarre selection of music! We’ve got everything from Mendelssohn and Bach to ELO and Judie Tzuke.

"It was really a collaboration between the director Vicky Featherstone, Martin Low the musical director and myself to find the right music for character and the story.

"We always knew we wanted something in contrast to the girls’ choir singing and we hit on ELO and that brought everything to life."

But there was a long time between the first idea to stage Warner’s novel – called The Sopranos – and getting it there.

Lee explained: "I read it in about 1998 and recognised Alan as very much a kindred spirit and I immediately thought it would make a brilliant bit of theatre.

"But I think the film rights were bought up and there was a veto on any other kind of theatrical production, so we had to wait."

Vicky Featherstone was the first director of the National Theatre of Scotland until a new job at the Royal Court in London took her away from Scotland.

Lee said: "I met Vicky five or six years ago and had said that I loved the book and thought it was the perfect thing for National Theatre of Scotland to do and she agreed.

"We started working on it, but just as we were ready to go, Vicky got the job at the Royal Court and we waited till she could come back to direct it."

Getting the girls to tell their own story was hugely impoortant for Lee.

"People like the girls are very often written off because of their social status.

"We wanted the story to be told in their voice and young women on the razz are quite often hit on by guys and we wanted to see what that was like through their eyes and share that with anaudience too."

The girls also play the guys – the six taking on between 45 and 50 roles.

"To see them morphing into all these different characters is fantastic – it’s very funny, but also upsetting and moving when you see it from their point of view," said Lee.

Finding the right performers also proved tough – Lee confirmed that around 200 actors and singers were auditioned.

"Yes, it was a bit like the X Factor!" he said. "But we really had to have the combination of the actors and people who could sing the classical music, which is very exacting."

Pleasing writer Alan proved to be less of a problem.

"He came to see it about four or five times – I think he was a bit nervous to know what we had done with it and was a bit tentative at first.

"But he really loved it which was a fantastic feather in our cap and he has been so fantastic with the cast, so that has been a real joy."

Our Ladies Of Perpetual succour is at Eden Court on Friday, September 18 and Saturday.

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