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Interview with Dawn Sievewright of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour
As the National Theatre of Scotland's production of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour continues to rock out (and swig down sambuca) at the Duke of York's Theatre, we caught up with one of the cast's leading ladies to find out a little more about the Olivier Award-winning comedy. Dawn Sievewright - an Olivier Award nominee in her own right - plays the role of Fionnula in the West End production and here's what she had to say:
Thomas Hayden Millward: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, Dawn. Could you perhaps give us a little summary of what 'Our Ladies' is about and how your character fits into the narrative?
Dawn Sievewright: Sure! So, 'Our Ladies' is about six catholic school girls, who travel to Edinburgh with their nuns to compete in a competition. But the choir competition is literally the last thing on their minds. They want to go to Edinburgh - from Oban - to go out and drink and meet boys and get up to the most ridiculous stuff that they possibly can! Our 1 hour 45 minutes show is basically about all the trouble that they get themselves into. I play a character called Fionnula, who likes to think she is the leader of the six. She's very feisty, very "out there" and she just really wants to have a good time and a party! When she gets to Edinburgh, she realises a couple of things about herself. She ends up coming back home a completely different person.
THM: Do you and Fionnula have any striking similarities in common?
DS: Well, the play is based on a novel called "The Sopranos" by Alan Warner and when I read it and auditioned, the director turned around to me and asked: "Which character do you connect with the most?" And I said Fionnula because I feel like we're quite similar. She kinda runs at life at 150mph and deals with the consequences afterwards and that's something that I do and I'm trying to be better at it. She has quite a lot to say about a lot of different things and I'm quite similar in that way too (laughs). She always finds herself in a little bit of trouble because she's such a party animal and I like to think I'm a little bit like that as well. So she's very similar to me.
THM: I think my "party animal" days are sadly over, Dawn. But we'll move swiftly on... The show was given a very positive review by our lead critic Mark Shenton, who refers to it as a "jukebox musical." Would you label it as such and how do you generally feel about that term?
DS: Well, I do love jukebox musicals, but this is not a jukebox musical. Firstly, we don't perform music all by the same person. It's all from different genres. We sing half classical music because, obviously, we're in a choir and then the other half is Electric Light Orchestra - ELO - music. But we're not squeezing those songs in to fit within the story. The music is the reason why the girls are there. The choir is the basis of the play. We spoke about this loads in rehearsal actually - whether it is a musical or a play. It's not really either of those things. It's more of a gig. We have a live band onstage. Those three girls are unbelievable. And we sing it all in this club called "The Band Track." The set looks like an old man's pub with empty bottles and drinks everywhere and bar stools. We don't move the set around at all, just the chairs. So it's more like a live gig than a musical or a play.
THM: And finally what would you say is the main message of the show - or live gig - as you call it?
DS: Well, I always describe the show as a kind of runaway train rollercoaster. You get on it and it's all set within 24 hours. Madness ensues in those 24 hours and, as actresses, at the end of the show, we're knackered... and the audience is as well! It's about living life and the things that you encounter - especially as a teenager. I mean we've all grown up. We all know what it's like to leave school and to not fit in and to not know what's going on. Everybody connects with it in that way. We wanted to share this story and make people feel like they can live and it's going to be alright. It's about growing up and it's about hope for the future.
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is booking through to Saturday, 2nd September 2017 at the Duke of York's Theatre.