by David Greig music and lyrics by Cora Bissett, Soom T, Patricia Panther, John. Gerry and Martin Kielty.
Theatre Royal Stratford East Gerry Raffles Square E15 1BN To 2 March 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described/BSL Signed 2 March 2.30pm.
Captioned 23 Feb 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8534 0310.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 February.
Vibrant and life-affirming: political theatre about real people.
Conceived by Scottish actor, playwright, director and musician Cora Bissett, this is not a rediscovery of the women artists of a century back who formed a counterpart to the painters known as The Glasgow Boys. It’s fair to say there are few, if any, counterparts to these Glasgow Girls.
By now they’ll be Glasgow women. Not that they’re particular – support the cause and you can belong, even if, like Mr Girvan, you’re a middle-aged male teacher rediscovering the passion of youthful causes mid-career. For all this happened in 2005 when asylum-seekers arrived in Drumchapel. Not gracious Old Drumchapel but the vast council estate visualised in the concrete wall and steps backing Merle Hensel’s set.
After initial face-offs between locals and new-arrivals, interesting things began happening. Schools took in young people who barely spoke English and thanks to patient work by the likes of Mr Girvan, both academic and sports results shot upwards. Teenagers became friends. When authority stepped-in with dawn raids, bashing down doors and handcuffing people refused leave to remain, they took action.
The Glasgow Girls brought humanity to the situation, just as this cast does to the soulless setting, with their energy and optimism. Natasha Gilmore’s choreographed episodes combine the performers’ considerable professional skills with the energy of their originals as they campaign to prevent their friends being deported.
Traditional sympathies remain alive, as in Myra McFadyen’s Noreen, a fine picture of good sense and community, with its own craftiness in early-warning systems against police-raids.
Formally, the Girls achieved little. Any success was due to other channels, while some cases are lost. If the piece feels at all strained, it’s in the self-conscious attempt to square the tug of the feelgood musical with the downside of reality.
But the Girls also achieved a great amount. The purpose it gave them is reflected in their lives, outlined in the programme. And the sense of ordinary members of a community setting an agenda, building strength together is shown by this company, and David Greig’s script, with the clarity and strength of 7:84, finest of all the last generation’s political companies.
Mr Girvan: Callum Cuthbertson.
Roza: Amiera Darwish.
Agnesa: Roanna Davidson.
Noreen: Myra McFadyen.
Ewelina: Stephanie McGregor.
Emma: Joanne McGuinness.
Amal: Amaka Okafor.
Various characters: Patricia Panther.
Jennifer: Dawn Sievewright.
Director: Cora Bissett.
Designer/Costume: Merle Hensel.
Lighting: Lizzie Powell.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Musical Arranger/Director: Hilary Brooks.
Choreographer: Natasha Gilmore.
Voice coach: Lorna Brooks.
Vooica coach (Balkan style) Anna Helena MacLean.
Dialect coach: Ros Steen.
Assistant director: Sarah McDonald.
Assistant musical director: Karen McIver.