Review: Glasgow Girls (King's Theatre)

January 20, 2019

It’s difficult to say the title of Cora Bissett and David Grieg’s musical without it being in the accent, the R rolling at the end, and truly this is a show with real pride in its location. Set in 2005, it focuses on 6 young women from Glasgow fighting the powers that be for the rights of asylum seekers, particularly their school friends. Based on a true story, the show returns from its fantastically successful run in 2012 to tour the country, starting at the King’s Theatre.

 

In some ways it has the tone of a 90s sports underdog movie. The stakes are far higher, but there’s so much optimism that at times it risks losing the sense of conflict. In the opening, for example, the young cast line up at the front of the stage in the darkness whilst a voice-over evicts some imagined family, before a bright light flashes in time with the sound of a door being broken down. It’s a striking start, which is immediately undercut by a cheery song welcoming asylum seekers relocated from London to Glasgow. It’s not a bad song by any means, it even contains bites of dark comedy in the lyrics. Even so, but the tone can be jarring at times, and the pacing uncertain.

 

It does pick up in the second act however, when the fight for rights moves beyond their mission of saving their friend Agnesa (Chiara Sparkes) to their community at large, and with the introduction of the hilariously meta Noreen (Terry Neason), who declares at the start that she had no interest in being in a musical. She gives a good performance, as do the central cast, even though the writing does not do much to distinguish them. There’s no doubt that they are strong and independent, but aside from their backgrounds and the fact one of them likes karate, there’s not much that tells them apart. Even so, it’s entertaining and inspiring to see them take on the world, especially for younger audience members.

 

It also inspires some patriotic pride, with cheesy references to Burns, The Proclaimers, and local slang aplenty, as well as having international touches like the Asian-influenced dancing. Does it show much depth? Sadly not, this is very much an us-vs-them story, but if you see it with that in mind it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the show. There’s a great deal of air-punching, but it also deals with a delicate topic with a careful hand, and ultimately it adds up to a fun, if rather mainstream, musical. Three stars.

 

Whispers from the crowd:

"Outstanding and extremely moving. It's as important now as ever it was."

 

 

 

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