Published in the Guardian
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
AS the librettist for the forthcoming musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,
David Greig knows all about the demands of a traditional West End show.
By contrast, Glasgow Girls, the playwright's current song-and-dance
outing, refuses to play by conventional musical rules.
In this co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland,
the Citizens and Theatre Royal Stratford East, he tells the true story
of seven pupils from Drumchapel high school
who, in 2005, launched a campaign against dawn raids, child detention
and deportations of asylum seekers. Yet, for all their success in
getting press coverage, a debate in the Scottish parliament
and, indeed, a musical written about them, the girls have yet to reach
the happy ending they deserve. "Our story is mostly about photocopying,"
says one in a characteristically sardonic assessment.
Glasgow Girls fizzes with sisters-doing-it-for-themselves energy, it
resists the genre's pull towards sentimentality. A case in point is the
concerned neighbour (played by Myra McFadyen in one of a series of
delightfully deadpan cameos), who explains she would rather be
expressing her political anger in words than in music. Only then does
she give us the song.
The soundtrack, too, with its world-music
arrangements and pop sensibility, is free of showbiz schmaltz. With a
more rigorously commercial approach, the producers might have dropped
the songs that don't move the plot forward. They might also have
demanded a bit more plot.
That, however, would be to underestimate
the emotive power of a story driven by righteous adolescent anger. We
are moved by the truth of the real-life story, the thrill of political
engagement and, in a production conceived and directed by Cora Bissett,
who also contributes several songs, the infectious girl-power feistiness
of her young company.
© Mark Fisher, 2012 (pic: Drew Farrell)
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