Dir. Cora Bissett, Citizens Theatre, 20th February-8th March
A true story about asylum seekers in Glasgow and the efforts of a group of seven high school girls to save their friend from being deported sounds, at first, like the worst musical ever. Either ridiculously over the top and totally insensitive, or too sad to be enjoyed the way a musical usually is. And yet “Glasgow Girls” is anything but. Cora Bissett’s stage adaptation of David Greig’s book is raw, energetic, passionate and totally heartfelt.
The striking and surprisingly versatile set of a grey, concrete Glasgow high rise is a stark backdrop which only emphasises the energy of the actors and the power of the songs. Indeed the music is the driving force behind the play – it highlights the angers, frustrations and joys of the group of girls as the audience follows the highs and lows of their journey towards justice.
The cast of girls give a dynamic and intense performance, and are well supported by Callum Cuthersson (Mr Girvan) and Myra McFayden (Noreen) who gives a touching portrayal as the archetypical loving and fiercely protective granny.
The only possible flaw of the play is its depiction of the Home Office as downright villains – cruel, evil, unrelenting and almost Gestapo like. Yet this caricature doesn’t stop the play from being any less genuine and moving – indeed this portrayal allows the audience to feel the terror of the asylum seekers and gain more understanding as to why they feel so victimised.
As terrifying as the reality the play represents is, fierce optimism and sheer energy are its driving force which allow it to stay sharp and interesting, and ensures it never becomes a tragedy but a musical about fighting against all the odds. Destined to become a landmark in Scottish contemporary theatre, “Glasgow Girls” is a play that will surely resonate in the mind for a long, long time.