Tallulah Greive: ‘Working-Class Women Aren’t Homogeneous’

The star of the riotous Our Ladies talks classism, taking teens seriously and why Derry Girls comparisons are off base.

Having been delayed for almost two years by the pandemic, Michael Caton-Jones’ Our Ladies, adapted from Alan Warner’s 1998 novel ‘The Sopranos’, finally arrives in UK cinemas this month. Set in 1996, the film follows six 17-year-old Catholic schoolgirls from the Highlands who head to Edinburgh for a choir competition, only to get caught up in debauchery.

At the story’s centre are five working-class friends, alongside derided posh girl Kay (Eve Austin): there’s closeted group leader Fionnula (Abigail Lawrie), her childhood bestie Manda (Sally Messham), punk singer Kylah (Marli Siu), islander Chell (Rona Morison), and Orla, who is in recovery from leukemia and hoping the Lord’s Prayer will now help her lose her virginity. Orla, also the film’s narrator, is played by Australian-born, Edinburgh-raised actor Tallulah Greive in her first feature film credit.

LWLies: How did you get into acting?

Greive: In nursery, I played a sheep one year and Mary the next, which is a kind of career progression I’ve never nailed since. I started youth theatre at about nine and then when I was thirteen, my Edinburgh youth theatre Strange Town, which I’m now patron of, started a little agency to run alongside. And it just went from there. I’ve been professionally acting for about ten years, which is quite strange to say at 23. I loved being in youth theatre and then the odd CBBC job came my way, which was great. And then Our Ladies happened, which was completely different and amazing.

You benefitted as a young performer from Strange Town’s bursary schemes. How do you feel about the current state of access for actors from low-income backgrounds?

I’m worried, but I think everyone has been for a very long time. As much as there are people fighting back against the arts cuts, it is scary. And there’s such a huge divide sometimes in the industry. Everyone that I’m friends with is aware of the fact we all come from very different places of privilege. You might have had private school connections and then you were able to find an agent through family and friends, whereas other people come through youth theatre and there’s the difference between that and drama school. There are many channels into the industry, but the main disadvantage is that some people just don’t have the money to do it. From my youth theatre there were so many talented people, but professional acting didn’t feel like something they could feasibly just go and do.

I still remember a friend in primary school saying, ‘My mum says that you’re gonna end up working in a fish and chip shop.’ I remember being really upset about it, but then also saying, ‘Well, if I worked in a fish and chip shop, maybe I’d enjoy it!’ That’s a classist comment. If you’re doing it to support yourself,

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