If there was ever a musical that captures the heart and warmth of Glaswegian culture, this is it. Glasgow Girls tells the story of a group of Drumchapel school girls, who campaigned against the practice of sending families (including minors) to detention centres, going as far as the First Minister and Holyrood. A governmental decision in the late 1990s to move families seeking asylum out of London to cities and areas around the rest of the UK, had resulted in a mass influx to Glasgow’s under populated high rises. Around this time one in eight pupils at ‘one of the toughest schools, in one of the toughest areas, in the toughest city in Scotland’, was an asylum seeker. The musical directed with well observed detail by Cora Bissett, charts the girls’ experience as they fall in love with Glasgow and Drumchapel – their safe haven from the horrors of war.
The show is of course, multicultural, cleverly using music and dance to amalgamate the sights and sounds of the girls’ home countries. The result – along with the strong Scottish artistic influences – is a glorious melting pot of eclectic, original tunes and joyful, explosive dance routines. The score and choreography subtly pay homage to each nationality. Musically and visually it all makes for something unusual and exciting, aided by the cast’s beautiful, energetic and impassioned vocals. There can be no better way to tangibly express the benefits of multiculturalism, than by showcasing the results in this way.
In addition to the strong immigration message, there’s one of female empowerment and the ability to unite in difference and accomplish great things, no matter your circumstances. This is a remarkable true story. It was achieved by a group of young women who were up against it in every way – most of the group were from minority groups who had experience deep trauma, all were female and all of them were living in a notoriously deprived area. As such, the show brims with hope in adversity, thanks to the well thought out script, tunes, staging, funny, skilled and moving performances.
Another brilliant conception in this piece, is Noreen – also part of the real story – played to perfection by Terry Neason. Her character welcomes the asylum seekers as ‘our weans now’, in a moving expression of the kind of Scottish hospitality that’s ubiquitous – especially in working class communities. Noreen is often the narrator, frequently breaking the fourth wall, and one of the major contributors to the on point self deprecating Glasgow wit in the show.
Glasgow Girls is theatre for change, theatre that provokes thought and compassion, theatre that helps us understand. But it’s not just worthy theatre either. Glasgow Girls is an uplifting, entertaining and impressive piece of Scottish theatre, at its best.
Glasgow Girls runs at King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until Saturday 26th January 2019.