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Vicky Featherstone: ‘West End needs more all-female stories’

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour at the Duke of York's Theatre, London. Photo: Manuel Harlan Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour at the Duke of York's Theatre, London. Photo: Manuel Harlan
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The cast and creatives of the all-female Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour have criticised the continued underrepresentation of female-led stories in theatre.

The production, which was created for the National Theatre of Scotland in 2015, is an adaptation of Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos and features a six-strong cast of Scottish female performers, with three female musicians.

Speaking at the play’s West End opening, its director Vicky Featherstone and the show’s producer Sonia Friedman complained that female stories told exclusively by women were still too uncommon a sight in theatre.

“For me it’s that moment when they come down for the final curtain call and you’ve got the line-up with the band as well and you go, ‘Oh my god, these nine women have just told us this story.’ It’s really striking because you just don’t see that,” Featherstone said.

Friedman added: “Being a woman, I am very attracted to any piece of storytelling that actually puts women at the centre of the stage, particularly young women, and particularly unconventional young women… It is rare and it shouldn’t be. It really shouldn’t be unusual but it is.”

Cast member Kirsty Maclaren said: “So often we get compared to shows such as Bouncers, or The History Boys or Blackwatch, and we’re always getting compared to shows that are all men. It’s so lovely to be in a show that features nine strong, empowered women.”

Fellow cast member Caroline Deyga added she was surprised that people still considered young women swearing on stage to be shocking.

“We think we’re quite far on in the way that we accept women in society, but a lot of people find it quite challenging to have women up there, swearing the way that we do and saying the things that we do.”

The play is adapted for the stage by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, who said it had been important to challenge the way that young women are portrayed in popular culture.

“We were trying to do a show that showed young women in a really strong way, but not having to appeal to a male gaze. It’s funny and sexy and rude, but it’s a celebration of those young women who are normally pilloried, certainly in the popular media.”

Featherstone added: “We really do demonise teenagers in our media, in our schools and the way that parents and grandparents talk about them so for me it’s just thrilling really that here they are, warts and all,” she added.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour runs at the Duke of York’s Theatre until September 2.

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