The Girls of Slender Means – Lyceum

Photo Credit Mihaela Bodlovic

In the weeks after VE Day, 1945, the young women lodging in London’s May of Teck Club, a boarding house for those of depleted means, are collectively trying to manage their love lives and their careers.

It’s an uncertain yet merry time for Muriel Spark’s The Girls of Slender Means: Jane, Jo, Selena, Anne and Pauline.

At a time when ‘all the nice people in England are poor’, they need to be physically slender, too – to fit through the tiny bathroom window to sunbathe on the roof. It’s not allowed, but it’s an escape, an adventure.

Jo (Molly McGrath) teaches elocution and sews; Pauline (Shannon Watson) is living in a fantasy world that her friends accept; Selina (Julia Brown) is slim, shallow and selfish; Anne (Amy Kennedy) is a practical, no nonsense sort. And then there’s Jane (Molly Vevers) dowdy, doing her ‘brain work’ and wanting to be noticed as a poet. This ensemble cast is all equally excellent.

The girls live alongside each other nicely enough, until Jane’s boss asks her to befriend a rising young poet, Nicolas Farringdon (Seamus Dillane), in order to make money out of him – subsequent events and rivalries lead to tragedy of the most unfair kind.

Muriel Spark’s writing is about faith, conversion, the risks of hiding trauma, the cracks that appear in outwardly together lives, and it’s done with humour and style and an underlying sadness.

Adapted from Spark’s novella by Gabriel Quigley and directed by Roxana Silbert,  Jessica Worrall’s set combines the rich colours of the girls’ outfits – centred on the coveted and shared Schiaparelli dress (in shocking pink) with a monochrome back wall of bombed-out London streets.

Highly recommended.

Running until 4th May at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

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