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The Girls of Slender Means, Lyceum (Theatre review)

Adapted from Muriel Spark’s classic novel by Gabriel Quigley, The Girls of Slender Means offers emotional duality, as we follow five women through the war days and into freedom. A freedom we see restricted through the focus of one designer dress that each of the women loans. Humour and warmth accompany fear and trauma as we follow Jane Wright and her friends throughout the play, and that May in 1945 in the Teck Club – the hostel for the ‘Pecuniary Convenience and Social Protection of Ladies of Slender Means below the age of Thirty Years.’

Directed by former Artistic Director of Hampstead Theatre and former Associate Director of The Royal Shakespeare Company, Roxana Silbert, The Girls of Slender Means begins slowly but with plenty of airs and graces, as they walk around the club with books on their heads repeating the same elocution lesson – moving on, we witness the women dance with their beaus, mannequins on wheels. Indicative of their desire to dream and remove themselves of the horror of war, the direction in this particular scene is poignant, though marvellously funny. 

Following an inability to move outside of London, these five women reside in the Teck Club, work and play, not realising the PTSD that the war has saddled them. Lingering threats and the effects of some of the work feed into their lives, which revolve around elocution, that designer dress and Jane’s scams for the publishing company she works for.  The play is a fantastic tribute to Spark, kindly spotlighting her wordplay and her capacity to add commentary to war days for women. Her duality along with Quigley’s is refreshing and we come out of the theatre all the better for it. 

With fantastic performances notably from Amy Kennedy as Annie and Julia Brown as Selina Redwood amidst a strong supporting  cast, it’s an adaptation that revives a Spark. 

The Girls of Slender Means runs until 4th May 2024 at The Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

Main image credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

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