REVIEW: Glasgow Girls, Assembly Hall, Edinburgh Festival ✭✭✭✭✭

Glasgow Girls

Glasgow Girls
Assembly Hall (Then Touring)
Edinburgh Fringe
5 Stars

With its raw energy and heart-breaking story, Glasgow Girls has been packing a punch since it burst onto the stage at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow four years ago. Now touring after a run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the show still has the power to both entertain and move you to tears.

It is based on real-life events in 2005 when seven schoolgirls at Drumchapel High School in Glasgow took on the system to fight on behalf of child refugees when one of their Kosovan Roma friends was at risk of deportation. While this could have made a fantastic drama, Cora Bissett and David Grieg turned it into a musical, fleshing out the narrative with memorable songs, witty lyrics and energetic dance, drawing at times on musical styles that reflect the refugees’ cultures.

Co-produced by the National Theatre of Scotland and premiered at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre, it is not only about fighting for human rights but also celebrating Glaswegians’ defiant spirit and opposition to unjust government, in this case the UK Home Office and immigration services. One of Robert Burns’s most famous poems, To a Mouse, about a vulnerable “cowrin’, tim’rous beastie”, becomes a glorious anthem for standing up to the larger forces of the establishment. With songs such as “We’re at Home in Glasgow (It’s Basically OK)”, it light-heartedly pokes fun at the city but also expresses a deep love and loyalty for the refugees’ adopted home.

Glasgow Girls

The teenagers, who were a mix of refugees and Glasgow-born girls, are played by seven talented young actors, Roanna Davidson, Sophia Lewis, Stephanie McGregor, Patricia Panther, Shannon Swan, Kara Swinney and Aryana Ramkhalawon. Also playing a number of smaller roles, they are joined by Callum Cuthbertson who plays their teacher Mr Girvan, who supported them from the start, as well as other characters including Scotland’s former First Minister, Jack McConnell, in a delightful show-stopping moment. Completing the cast is Terry Neason as Noreen, a neighbour supporting the girls’ fight, who provides some of the show’s biggest laughs, sometimes breaking the fourth wall to great comic effect, as well as leading on the emotionally charged song about the plight of child refugees, “It’s No a Wean’s Choice”.

While the musical inevitably simplifies complex issues, it seamlessly integrates some of the debate about Britain’s attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers. With these issues as relevant today as they were when the show premiered in 2012, Glasgow Girls is a powerful, compelling plea for seeing refugees as people rather than just faceless statistics.

Touring until October 15, 2016

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
30/08/2016 – 03/09/2016

Oxford Playhouse
07/09/2016 – 10/09/2016

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling
15/09/2016 – 16/09/2016

Theatre Royal Stratford East
20/09/2016 – 01/10/2016

Dundee Rep Theatre
12/10/2016 – 15/10/2016


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