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Review of Glasgow Girls at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

Glasgow Girls - Photo by Andrew Wilson
Glasgow Girls – Photo by Andrew Wilson

As I sat down to write this review I noticed that someone who was seated across from me was wearing a lanyard with her nametag from work saying, “supporting and empowering refugees“. I proceeded to tell her about the show. This issue of refugees, seeking asylum, is unquestionably a very current issue.

Glasgow Girls is the true story of a group of young teens that fight for the right of their asylum-seeking friends and neighbours to remain in Glasgow. The story unfolds after a strong entrance and explanation of everyone’s arrival. They then fast-track to 5 years later, when these characters experience their friend being snatched in the night by the government.

The best part of this show was in effect the double casting and cross casting. Women played women and men, teens played teens and adults, and almost everyone played a character of a different race than the one they are. In this way, this production of Glasgow Girls is demanding equality through their casting just as much as they are demanding it through the dialogue and actions on stage. It was refreshing, bold and fearless. It was commendable. They truly depicted the message of equal rights and equal opportunities.

The set had fog constantly at the top of the stage, depicting the weather in Glasgow. This was a creative use of the fog machine, one that I have never seen before. Instruments were played on stage by actors including one very talented young female fiddler, Laura Wilkie.

At one point in the story, one of the girls is crying from gratitude at having homework, as women aren’t allowed to go to school in the place where she was born. I experienced goosebumps. Later, when the girls were confronted with the aspect of their political actions at its infancy, the line “We can’t keep marching round and round the playground” had me chuckling. A daughter addressed her father’s small mindedness and racism while a fiddle played on stage. It was a strong song and an equally strong moment as she confronted her father’s opinions. A fun number encompassed a politician wearing a gold sequinned jacket with the girls staged creatively behind him as his backup singers. Near the end of the play, the girls lined up downstage and acted out in unison the final minutes of deportation of one of their neighbours. This creative use of the actors and the space was very effective.

A sign painted on stage said, “Save our Neighbours” and the final character said, “Everyone who fights for the rights of others is a Glasgow Girl“. If you are at all politically charged by what is occurring, if you are interested is multiculturalism casting, if you are curious about a different experience than yours regarding this refugee crisis, or if you are an actor of colour who is feeling forgotten by the London theatre scene, go and see Glasgow Girls. There is still time to see this true story.

4 stars

Review by Julie Bergevin

Glasgow Girls is a life-affirming, song-filled Scottish drama based on the true story of seven teenagers, whose lives change forever when their school friend and her asylum-seeking family are forcibly taken from their home to be deported.

Cast: Roanna Davidson, Callum Cuthbertson, Sophia Lewis, Stephanie Macgregor, Terry Neason, Patricia Panther, Shannon Swan and Kara Swinney

Director: Cora Bissett; Set Designer: Jessica Brettle; Lighting Designer: Lizzie Powell Choreographer: Natasha Gilmore; Composers: Cora Bissett, Kielty Brothers, MC Soom T, Patricia Panther; Sound Designer: Garry Boyle
Originating Musical – Director & Arranger: Hilary Brooks; Additional Arrangements 2016: Gavin Whitworth, Michael “Mikey J” Asante of Boy Blue Entertainment.

Glasgow Girls
Tue 20th September – Sat 1st October 2016
Gerry Raffles Square, London E15 1BN


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