‘The Glasgow Girls’ – National Theatre of Scotland, Stratford East. Review by Julia Pascal.

This is high octane socialist theatre from Scotland which marries feminism, multiculturalism and aims a fist in the eye of the UK Border Police.  Cora Bissett’s production and David Grieg’s book is a mixture of the tough and the winsome.  This is a fresh and original work which offers amazingly skilled musical performances from the majority female cast.  They sing with passion and, if the ensemble is strong, there is also a diva among them with the electrifying voice of Patricia Panther . This exceptional singer/actor doubles as cop and asylum seeker.  In fact the multi-talented team all play many roles in this  modern social drama.

The structure of the text changes in the second act when it moves from the naturalistic musical genre to a more Brechtian style. Myra McFadyen as Noreen, the narrator breaks the fourth wall.  She tells the audience, ‘I didn’t want to be in a musical’.  This cracks up the house who immediately accept the genre change.

Noreen is  the voice of the Glasgow working class who fight for  the asylum seekers, particularly the children.  Direct audience address works well and moves the narrative away from the  individual schoolgirls’ experience and into  into the larger urban and national political arena.  McFadyen is a gifted actor whose presence links  a diversity of scenes and offers a symbol of the strong Glasgow socialist history.

I like the way the text interrogates itself and pokes fun at any utopic vision of a happy ending.  But it also shows that the struggle against dawn raids and deportations must not stop.  Wittily Bissett’s production reveals this political line theatrically.  Natasha Gilmore’s skilful choreography ends the show with a company dance which starts out as a belly dance and morphs into a Highland reel.

Julia Pascal © 2013.