Glasgow Girls at Theatre Royal Stratford East
Theatre Royal Stratford East presents the London premiere of Glasgow Girls, co-produced by the National Theatre of Scotland and Citizens Theatre.
Based on a true story and set between 2000 and 2005, we are led through narration and song about seven girls in Glasgow. The Home Office were sending asylum seekers to the city, and then deporting them once they had begun to settle and raise families.
The energy of each actor is electric, the story emotionally charged with fierce musical delivery, including blends of electronic grime, reggae-dub and folk rock. The story is cleverly written by David Greig and conceived for the stage by Cora Bissett, balancing humour, Scottish tradition, anguish and the lengths you go to protect the ones you love.
All playing multiple roles, the small cast illustrates the diversity of family backgrounds. You also are given the Home Office side of the story, where Patricia Panther (who plays a variety of roles, showcasing her incredible versatility) stuns with a haunting vibrato during AT IT. Amaka Okafor primarily plays Amal, a Somalian girl, but shines as Francine from the Congo who is desperately trying to protect her five-year-old, keen Celtic fan Olivier, from deportation. Heart-wrenchingly, as the girls collect an award for all their campaigning, they discover their efforts weren’t enough for Francine and Olivier.
Myra McFadyen shines as Noreen and in her various other roles (notably as hilarious headmaster Mr Blakey). Her maternal, hallowed voice struck a chord with every seat in the house and Our Dreams are Kites was a show-stealer.
This piece of theatre is far from traditional. It stamps on your heart, and is politically charged to the point where you wish you could personally sit David Cameron in front row. Last night saw the real Glasgow Girls appear onstage at the end to a standing ovation.
On a technical level, though strong, the show would be improved by a smaller stage to heighten the intimacy of the stories and the oppressive impossibility of situations faced. The simple set was well designed by Merle Hensel, with great use of the back wall as the block of flats that also became docks in court.
The story is powerful, and for the message it delivers it should be seen by people from all walks of life. Despite the inapt venue, the entire creative team should be proud of what they have achieved.
Glasgow Girls is at Theatre Royal Stratford East until 2nd March 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.