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Reviews: stage

Glasgow Girls

Glasgow Girls

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

WHEN Glasgow Girls premiered here in October 2102, it somehow felt disloyal to nit-pick about the production. It was, after all, based on a home-grown true story. Maybe a musical seemed an odd vehicle but - written by David Greig, directed by Cora Bisset- who co-composed the multi-cultural score - it nonetheless emerged as a blazingly impassioned and humbling show about the Drumchapel schoolgirls who out-faced politicians and local authorities in the name of friendship. They campaigned, you'll remember, in 2005 against the harsh treatment of failed asylum seekers because of the threatened deportation of a Kosovan class-mate.

Now Glasgow Girls is back, with a couple of cast changes and a few subtle tweaks that offset lingering reservations about form and content. The first half, laying out the background is sharper in pace, and really bright with the eagerness of youth as it gears up to challenge the system and bring about change. The five Girls just bounce out of their skins with a barn-storming hope and determination that brings touching intensity to the song-and-dance framework. For sure, the treatment remains unswervingly black and white: police, Home Office, Jack McConnell et al are the baddies, warranting comic-book lampoon or else looming out of the shadows as heavy-handed, authoritarian ciphers.

But, like Wildcat shows of yore, this production - underpinned by the National Theatre of Scotland, Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Citz - is out to challenge social complacency and indifference. Myra McFadyen's cri de coeur against detaining helpless weans does exactly that, while Callum Cuthbertson's Mr Girvan is just the dab as the teacher who is on hand when the lessons in life include turning failure into a reason to keep fighting injustice.

Blink

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper

LIFE and death are everything for Jonah and Sophie, the shyly dysfunctional couple at the heart of Blink, Phil Porter's self-consciously kooky but quietly profound play, which was originally seen at the Traverse during the theatre's 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe season.

As the pair talk to the audience, their story unfolds via series of criss-crossing monologues that lay bare an awkward, barely there affair that's more about confirming each other's right to be apart than anything that happens when they're not quite together.

Sophie has been brought up in the Isle of Man, Jonah in a religious commune. Both come into money via their dead parents, and end up living on top of each other in a London suburb.

He watches her as one might view a reality TV show, while she keeps her distance, and they only meet for the first time after a near fatal accident brings them briefly into the same sphere until they go their separate ways once more.

Joe Murphy's co-production between Soho Theatre and the nabokov company is a charmingly quirky concoction that's as much emotional show-and-tell as drama.

As Jonah and Sophie, Thomas Pickles and Lizzy Watts make a sweetly endearing pair, who punctuate the play's every-day oddness with an understated and deadpan humour that underpins the story's tenderness without any need for schmaltz.

Such stylisation captures a low-key absurdity as well as a warmth that's engagingly infectious throughout.

The result of all this is a moving and funny snapshot of two people who learn to live beyond their losses, even as the fleeting moment of something that might resemble happiness passes them by in an instant.

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