Stage review: Glasgow Girls, Stratford
Theatre Royal Stratford East
IN A NUTSHELL
The traumatic issue of asylum and deportation is given an upbeat and energetic treatment, writes Julia Gregory.
In noughties Glasgow, a group of teenagers were enjoying the challenges of school life: homework, exams, boys - and deportation.
Not quite the timetable every school child expects to follow but for the young refugees who ended up in Glasgow, dawn raids and detention centres were part of their experience.
However these friends decided to fight back and take their campaign to the politicians. They became known as the Glasgow Girls with feisty Jennifer (Dawn Sievewright) and school prefect Emma (Joanne McGuiness) joining forces with the newcomers.
Meanwhile, neighbours mounted dawn patrols to warn the asylum seekers if the deportation teams were on their way under the watchful eye of their optimistic teacher Mr Girvan (movingly played by Callum Cuthbertson).
This true story has been turned into a musical by director Cora Bissett and writer David Craig and, grim though the subject matter sounds, it is one of the most vibrant nights in the theatre I've experienced - humorous and poignant.
It's hard to single out any performance in such a strong ensemble piece with Amiera Darwish, Roanna Davidson, Stephanie McGregor and Amaka Okafor all turning in touching performances as the girls settling into a new, if uncertain life, and Patricia Panther tackling a range of roles with gusto.
This is probably also the only musical likely to feature a song about the former Scottish first minister Jack (now Lord) McConnell entitled Jack, Jack, What's the Crack?
The politician became a convert to the children's cause and tried to persuade Westminster to reject the rules too. He has his own appearance, in a glittery gold jacket - but that part is definitely fiction.
The peer attended the first night and later told The Wharf he thought it was "a spectacular show."
The production is a collaboration between the Theatre Royal Stratford East, the National Theatre of Scotland and the Citizens Theatre. Music is provided by composers including Sumati Bhardwaj, Patricia Panther and the Kielty Brothers.
It is full of passion, energy and emotion and you should check it out. You won't be doing anything more important.
Until March 2, go to stratfordeast.com.
Images: Robert Day