JOYCE MCMILLAN on HERE WE STAY at the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 16.11.12.
4 stars ****
THE MAIN auditorium at the Citizens’ is jumping, this weekend, with the final performances of Glasgow Girls, the theatre’s smash-hit musical about seven Drumchapel schoolgirls who, back in 2005, launched a fierce campaign in support of their asylum-seeker schoolfriends.
If you want a passionate, vivid reminder that asylum-seekers continue to arrive in Glasgow, though, and to face the same problems and worse, then this weekend there’s a chance to see this powerful 6.00 pm curtain-raiser in the Circle Studio, presented by the Scottish Refugee Council and the Citizens’ Community Company. Here We Stay is messy, rough-edged, and presented by a big community company of twenty performers; half are asylum seekers, and many have never been on stage before. Yet the story it tells – of how these new Glaswegians arrived from Somalia and South Africa, Iran and Kurdistan, Egypt and Hong Kong, and how they struggle to survive and thrive – is so charged with energy, and so rich in its variety, that it fairly takes the breath away.
There’s no narrative linking the hour-long show; just fragments of dialogue and monologue, and some filmed material created with Urbancroft. Above all, though, there is music; for where the dialogue stumbles and jokes around the lack of an immediate common language, the music soars and sings, bringing together harmonies and rhythms from Africa, the Middle East, Iran, Scotland. Musical director and composer Matthew Brown leads a terrific six-piece band; the songs are heartfelt and fine. And if so many of the cast are now willing to call Glasgow their home, it’s partly because – thanks to Neil Packham and Elly Goodman, and their outstanding Citizens Community team – they have found a space where they can meet other Glasgow citizens in this rich human choir; and begin to share their music, along with all the hopes and dreams it contains.