Step into the world of post-war London with “The Girls of Slender Means” at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Adapted from Muriel Spark’s classic novel, this production navigates the frivolity and the harsh realities of life in the aftermath of war with grace and poignancy. Set in the May of Teck Club, a central London hostel for financially distressed young women, the play follows the lives of five residents as they grapple with love, loss, and the pursuit of a brighter future.

Watching the opening scenes of “The Girls of Slender Means” feels like a journey back in time, immersed in the atmosphere of 1945 London. Gabriel Quigley’s adaptation of Muriel Spark’s novella is a masterful translation of the source material, skillfully weaving between past and present to paint a vivid portrait of the five girls who call the May of Teck their temporary home.

Four women are gathered together looking at a parcel that has been sent to a boarding house post World War Two. The women are acting in The Girls of Slender Means at the Lyceum.

Quigley’s script expertly captures the essence of each character, from the frustrated poet Jane, portrayed with depth and nuance by Molly Vevers, to the glamorous Selina, brought to life with charisma by Julia Brown. The performances are uniformly strong, with each actor bringing their character to life with authenticity and depth. I wanted to loath Selina who let her friends down so badly, but ultimately I just want to know more about her back story.

A woman sits looking to the left of the image. She wears a red dress and is fixing her hair. She is acting in a play at the Lyceum in Edinburgh. The Girls of Slender Means.

As the girls navigate the challenges of post-war life, grappling with dreams of glamour and the harsh realities of rationing, the audience is drawn into their world with a sense of nostalgia and empathy. Seamus Dillane’s portrayal of Nicholas Farringdon walks a fine line between roguish charm and misunderstood poet. Initially likeable, he rapidly loses his shine but is a complicated hero by the end – but I appreciated that his story didn’t overshadow that of the women.

“The Girls of Slender Means” is a compelling exploration of friendship and ultimately, I could finally understand why my Grandmother said that the war was the ‘happiest she had been.’ The cast perfectly navigated the line between comedy and tragedy – contrasting the excitement of a night out and relationship gossip with the utter devastation caused by war.

Two women stage in a celebration. They have linked arms and each are punching the air smiling. The are dressed in period clothes. The women are acting in The Girls of Slender Means at the Lyceum.

Whilst this play may be set in London, we also don’t forget that the author of the original book (Muriel Spark) came from Edinburgh Story with small references in the play – like top stitching on a well-made dress! Whilst it was some time since I had read the book, I could recall enough to know that it wasn’t a strict retelling – but I liked both for the same reason – it was fun but equally thought-proving. With a lot that was surprisingly relatable. Is this a comedy or a tragedy? It’s certainly a drama.

In summary, “The Girls of Slender Means” at the Lyceum in Edinburgh is a theatrical experience not to be missed. With its captivating performances, evocative setting, and timeless themes, it’s a journey back in time that will linger in the memory long after the final curtain falls. It’s 4 stars from me!

“The Girls of Slender Means” is on at the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh until Saturday 4th May. Tickets are available here. We were invited to review on the press night so were gifted tickets but all thoughts/words from this review are our own.

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