Rather like London buses, when you thought one would never turn up, two come along at once! So it was with theatre productions from Scotland this week, as one production graced the stage on the South Bank and the other, GLASGOW GIRLS, burst onto the Theatre Royal Stratford East, with its high octane enthusiasm and a mission to explain the plight of temporary immigration.
GLASGOW GIRLS cast Theatre Royal Stratford East. (Image by Sharon McHendry)
Glasgow Girls is an entertaining and thought provoking evening with a lot of heart that demanded engagement and involvement from its East End audience. Their performances were generous and inviting in comparison to the smart, slick but self-serving approach taken by those on the South Bank. Where they alienated, the East End included, where there might have been perpetual egotism at the expense of character this Stratford East Theatre company exposed the complexity of poverty, in a stricken but caring working class community, they lifted each other up; decrying racism, daring to excel, demanding to be heard as they challenged human rights and government policy. Set against the backdrop of Drumchapel tower blocks a story of despair and bravery unfolded as the local High school allowed for personal expression and political activism among the asylum seekers, and as it spread through both school and community, they were bound by a vision of fairness for the destitute, and we witnessed excellent story telling about the vulnerable and needy.
In this production the working class were not ridiculed or demonized and women were thinking, proactive and bound by resisting exploitation, whatever their economic status, creed or colour. They looked beyond themselves and were empowered through political activism instead of shallow sectarianism.
GLASGOW GIRLS depicted real lives with good and honorable intentions telling a story important to hear. This company embraced a multi cultural Glasgow, with all its problems and was beautifully symbolized by the musical fusion, where a range of cultural sounds that were inherent in song, and accompaniment. Equally impressive – this fusion was also in dance – as the mixture of Gay Gordon or Strip the Willow seemed to fuse happily with more esoteric, dervish style range of moves. These vocal and physical metaphors gave us a modern outward looking Scotland, where differences were celebrated and the good in people was expected and seen, rather than suspected and foully expressed with derision, as in the South Bank. A wide age range of performers, both male and female helped deliver GLASGOW GIRLS compelling message as the production really did capture ‘there but for the Grace of God’ attitude. We are all Glasgow girls, as Noreen explained, making the young girls realize that it takes all sorts to mobilise a political campaign. It may take a community to raise a child, but it certainly takes one to save them from deportation.
There were powerful performances across the board from the all-female cast but Stephanie McGregor and Rebecca Donnelly excelled with their delivery, ranging from the fun and entertaining to the sad and desperate. The second half allowed the talented Terry Neason to use her long-standing experience to great effect as she delivered her monologue to the audience with skill and wit and her range of finely sketched characters throughout were always finely tuned.
Some dramatic sound effects along with bold lighting states, courtesy of Lizzie Powell and Fergus O’Hare constantly grabbed the attention of the audience. This was a story where we had to sit up and listen. A remit effectively met by the director and composer, Cora Bissett as the piece moved swiftly along punctuated by catchy dance sounds and an excellent remix by Michael Asante. The programme notes explaining the future success of the campaigners was inspiring and it would have perhaps been uplifting to have been included in the show but it was nonetheless a powerful message at the end of David Greig’s script, as the company challenged the audience about the on-going struggle of asylum seekers. I can imagine the Theatre of Scotland must be kicking themselves for not investing more heavily in this worthy production – this was a horse worth backing and if you’re quick, you can catch it running throughout this month. I bet you’ll love it!
Credit to Theatre Royal Stratford East for welcoming back this popular, provocative and entertaining piece of theatre.
It plays from September 20th until October 1st.
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