The Girls of Slender Means @ Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

This new adaption of Muriel Spark's The Girls of Slender Means reflects on post-war life through laughter, friendship and hope

Review by Elaine Law | 01 May 2024
  • Girls of Slender Means

London is bruised and battered by the blitz. The war is over but there’s empty seats at the table. Women have swapped war work for telephones and typewriters and no one is quite sure what’s to come. The nation walks a tightrope between jubilation for a battle won and terror at what’s passed. 

The Girls of Slender Means – adapted from Muriel Spark's 1963 novel by Gabriel Quigley, and directed by Roxana Silbert – manages this balancing act with a sense of poise that would make the eponymous girls proud, never allowing too much joy without sorrow or too much sadness without hope. 

The play follows the lives of a group of twenty-something women who work as secretaries in the city, living together in the May of Teck boarding house for the financially challenged. The women cling on to beacons of hope around them, seeking refuge in poetry, music, dance, designer dresses and love, while the horrors of war continue to literally ring in their ears.

As Jane Wright, a literary hopeful who craves brain food more than a narrow waistline, Molly Vevers delivers a punchy performance full of heart and hope. She demands better from the world and remains resilient despite all of the terror around her. Meanwhile, Julia Brown as Selina Redwood shines as the narcissist of the group, trading her looks and her friendships for clothing rations and car rides. 

The play sashays gracefully from the dance hall to the workplace to the boarding house, with costumes perfectly pitched by designer Jessica Worrall and military-suited mannequins working surprisingly effectively as dance partners. In a time when the world has plenty of dark spots, this play is full of friendship, laughter and hope. It is a reminder of the beauty and value of the arts in its many forms and its ability to endure and nourish through difficult times. Shine on, theatre, we’re watching.

The Girls of Slender Means, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until 4 May