JOYCE MCMILLAN on GLASGOW GIRLS at the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 3.11.12
4 stars ****
IMAGINE A MODERN fairytale, based on a real life story. It’s not that it has a happy ending. It’s not that the struggle it describes – for justice, truth, happiness, reunion – is neatly resolved. Yet still, there’s a real thrill of magic about Glasgow Girls, the new Glasgow Citizens’/National Theatre Of Scotland musical about seven Glasgow schoolgirls who came together, half a decade ago, to fight the immigration regime that was seizing, imprisoning and deporting their asylum seeker schoolfriends.
In one sense, this is about the magic of youth; because these girls – four from asylum-seeker families, three not – believed so passionately in the justice of their cause; and because that passion has been transmitted so completely to the team of young actors who now take on the roles of those young women – the real-life Glasgow Girls who climbed onto the stage to stand with them, at the end of last night’s memorable premiere performance. Partly, it’s the romance of a city still in love with itself, despite all its flaws, and of a country trying to decide what kind of future it seeks; there’s a huge charge of emotion in the girls’ love for Glasgow, and of political excitement in the scenes where they visit the Scottish Parliament, and lobby the then First Minister, Jack McConnell.
And finally, there’s the magic of musical theatre, expressed here through a jagged mix of exuberance, brilliance and questioning scepticism that shouldn’t work, but is finally electrifying. The music is by five composers, led by the amazing Sumati Bhardwaj (Soom T). The script is by the magnificent David Greig. And Cora Bissett directs a show that plays up to many of Glasgow’s favourite dreams about itself; but is nonetheless the kind of explosion of great popular theatre that every city and every nation needs, from time to time, to remind it of what it is, and what it might become.