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Glasgow Girls – Theatre Royal Stratford East, London

Book: David Greig

Music &Lyrics: Cora Bissett, Sumati Bhardwaj, Patricia Panther, Kielty Brothers

Director: Cora Bissett

Reviewer: John Roberts


David Greig and Cora Bissetts’s Glasgow Girls, packs a powerful political punch, while firmly holding its tongue firmly in its cheek. Telling the true story of a group of 15 year old friends forced together in 1995, when the government decided to move asylum seekers out of London and into other areas of the United Kingdom. Agenesa, Ewelina, Roza and Amal find retreat in Drumchapel, a notorious tower block council estate in the suburbs of Glasgow.

Over a period of five year’s they gain the trust and friendship of the locals and become solid friends with several of the girls within their year group. Supported and guided by local ‘Folk’ singer and unconventional teacher Mr. Girvan – their tight knitted bond is pushed to the limits when Agnesa and family are suddenly deemed fit to return back to their homeland. Carted away in a manner only best served for hardened criminals the ‘Glasgow Girls’ campaign for their friends return, only what they got in return wasn’t quite what they or anybody else had expected.

Greig’s script is unconventionally powerful and alongside Bissett’s energetic and fluid direction Glasgow Girls, breathes new life into the usually stale and stagnant waters of musical theatre, however where Glasgow Girls may be strong in message and presentation, sometimes the lyrics of the songs, which vary in style can be a little uninspired and dare I say it a little trite…rhyming couplets and childish slang filling most of the gaps – however this is a relatively small downfall in what otherwise is strong production.

The young cast exude energy from every pore, especially when singing and dancing all together. Dawn Sievewright as local gal Jennifer has so much stage presence it is difficult not to be drawn into her slightly more rough and ready character over the others, however Roanna Davidson gives a touching performance as asylum seeker Agnesa and is complimented wonderfully by Amiera Darwish as Roza. Great Support is given from Callum Cuthbertson as Mr. Girvan and the hilarious Myra McFadyen as Noreen and the Headmaster.

Merle Hensel’s bold, grey, tower block set brings an uneasy atmosphere to proceedings, and lit with intensity and meaning through Lizzie Powell’s affecting lighting design. Credit must also be given to Natasha Gilmore’s striking and frenetic choreography which never fails to light up the stage.

The National Theatre of Scotland have gained a strong reputation for creating theatre that has a real presence and immediacy and it is great to see them, through the support of Theatre Royal Stratford East, bringing this type of work outside it’s normal stomping ground. Glasgow Girls rightly deserves its chance to be seen by a wider audience especially as what it holds firmly in its heart affects every single one of us.

Photo by Robert Day

Runs Until 2nd March

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