Glasgow Girls

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Neil Cooper

Four stars

THINGS have changed in the world in the six or so years since Cora Bissett and David Greig’s heroic musical first appeared. In terms of institutional attitudes towards immigration, to say this hasn’t always been for the better is an understatement. Telling the real life story of what happened when a group of teenage asylum seekers and their mates who dubbed themselves the Glasgow Girls took on the system and won, the show itself feels like it has grown stronger in the face of encroaching adversity since it was originally seen at the Citizens Theatre in co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland.

Revived for a timely tour by an alliance between increasingly significant production house Raw Material and gig promoters Regular Music, Bissett’s production now feels more intimate somehow as well as more urgent. As it charts how Roza, Ewelina, Amal, Agnesa, Jennifer and Emma find common ground in a Drumchapel secondary school after one of their number is incarcerated following a dawn raid by immigration authorities, the young women’s protests make it all the way to Holyrood. Victory, alas, has a bittersweet taste.

From the opening take on old-school show-tunes, there is heart and soul aplenty on show here, with Bissett’s nine-strong cast working their way through a musical stew of multi-cultural song and dance routines by the Kielty Brothers, MC Soom T, Patricia Panther and Bissett herself to illustrate the girls’ cause. The second half is full of magnificent set-piece by Terry Neason as the girls’ neighbour Noreen and Callum Cuthbertson as the Girls’ deadpan teacher.

It is the firecracker central ensemble of Sophia Lewis, Stephanie McGregor, Aryana Ramkhalawon, Chiara Sparkes, Shannon Swan and Kara Swinney, plus Panther and fiddler Laura Jane Wilkie, who show that unity is strength. This is a show about friendship, hope and a form of people-powered solidarity that crosses borders in every way, even as it so vitally reminds us of injustices that happened on our doorstep, and which are happening still.