‘Our Ladies’ is a comedy-drama set in the Highlands of Scotland that follows a group of Catholic school girls as they head to Edinburgh to compete in a school choir competition. With a few hours of free time in the big city, the girls are determined to find boys, alcohol, and as much mischief as possible, before they must stick their uniforms back on and sing under the direction of their stern choir mistress played by Kate Dickie.
For the young cast, all born in the late 1990s, playing teenagers in 1996 was an exciting prospect, but more importantly, it was getting the chance to act in a film solely told from the female perspective.
Marli Siu plays Kylah, lead singer and all-around wild child. She says it was rare for so many female actors to film together. “We always are the ones that come in and out of a job, and the men get to all bond and are there the whole time. It is so rare to get to do that and be with other girls.”
Tallulah Greive, who plays Orla, a teenager whose young life has been marred by health issues, says that the long journey to get the film made highlights the need for movies like ‘Our Ladies’. “It is so nice to be coming up in an industry that is changing, but the fact that Michael tried to get this made for 20 years and everyone was like, you’re kidding yourself, no one wants to see six broads hanging out on the screen, just proves how much we need films like this right now.”
Rona Morison plays Chell, a teenager with a big secret. Before joining the cast, she wondered if a male director could tell the story of six young women. “I was wary at the start; you think with six female leads that it should be a female director taking on the reins, but honestly, he was great, and I think it almost needed male energy to take the reins a little bit. He cared about this so much, this was his baby, and he cared about these characters so much. It’s been in the pipeline for him for ten plus years. He invested so much in every one of us, and he’s such a lovely guy. We all have a place for him in our hearts. He is a brilliant director and let us check in all the time, and we have a really good relationship. If he didn’t like something we did, or we didn’t like something he did, we’d be honest about it.”
The cast had three weeks of rehearsals before filming began, and they lived together for the duration of the shoot to ensure that they formed a bond that would reflect the bond shared by their characters. Sally Messham, who plays Manda, says this was a surreal and exciting time. “We were all living in apartments on top of each other. It was a bit of a dream. A party taxi would turn up with a bottle of Prosecco and Budweiser and take us out to have meals, and we were encouraged to bond. It was a pinch-me moment.”
Messham also says that as fun as it was to live together, the group did have their challenges. “It was intense as well. I think to get that close bond, we needed to go through the ups and downs, and pack in this really long relationship within a very short space of time. So, it was pretty intense, but it was amazing. I think we came out of it much richer because of it. It really feels like really lived in friendships. You believe that these girls have known each other forever.”
Eve Austen plays Kay, an outsider who wants to fit in with the rest of the group. She says that teenage audiences will see themselves reflected on the big screen. “I really hope that the young girls see themselves represented in one or more than one of the girls because I feel like that’s always been lacking slightly in movies and telly. I would love, love, love for people to feel that their friendships are seen on screen and that it’s okay to talk about those things. You can be fun and exciting and valued and respected at whatever age you are.”
Morison agrees and says that film has a strong message about the importance of having fun while you can. “This is a massive story about friendship. No matter what background you’re from, you can relate to that. These girls are from quite an impoverished background, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have that support network that comes in the form of these five other girls. I think that they can make mistakes, and they have fun with it, and they push through it, and they’re still alive at the end of the day. We’ve had two tough years, and I think this is an uplifting and poignant film as well. There’s definitely a message we can take away: have a bit of fun with life.”
Words – Cara O’Doherty