Glasgow Girls – Abbey Theatre – Review
13 – 16 February 2019
Abbey Theatre presents Raw Material in association with Regular Music – Glasgow Girls
This is the true story of a teenage girl in Drumchapel, Glasgow. The woman in question is an asylum-seeker and she has lived in Glasgow for five years. She feels a part of her school and enjoys life in Scotland. That is until she is forcibly taken from her home to be deported along with her family. Her classmates and friends react in the only way they know how; through protest!
This is a co-production between Raw Material and Regular music that has a brief run in the Abbey. Raw Material are a Scottish company who aim to “combine skills and resources to support and produce the work of independent Scottish artists”. The production started life in the King’s theatre, Glasgow, in January before touring Scotland. The Dublin dates are the last part of the tour.
The writer is David Greig, who is a highly prolific Scottish playwright with a large body of work including adaptations and translations. He is known for work such as the Suppliant Woman which was part of the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2017. A number of smaller companies have also performed his work on Irish stages, including Outlying Islands, Creditors and Being Norwegian. His work tends to be quite political in nature and this is no exception, although this musical is something of a departure for him.
There are a variety of musical styles on display, with full on dance and hip-hop numbers along with folk songs on acoustic guitar. There are six musicians hidden in the wings along with Laura Jane Wilkie, who plays fiddle on stage.
If the play has a failing it is that the story is too complex. While the initial idea of a young woman taken from her home could work as a musical, the play expands the scope to deal with the issue as a whole. Facts are debated about the number of refugee families in the UK and narrow minded views that they are ‘taking our jobs’ or that they’re too expensive to house or feed. While these are all interesting points to debate, they don’t make easy bedfellows with the musical framework. There are some impressive touches, like Noreen (Terry Neason) a local woman who doesn’t really want to be in a musical. She would be much happier to talk about her problems, but even she succumbs to the need to sing!
The play certainly has its heart in the right place. The idea of a production about the plight of asylum seekers is a good one, but it would have been better served in a traditional play as opposed to a musical. Having said that, the cast are well drilled and some of the dance routines are highly impressive, as the stage fills with the Glasgow girls, like some new found girl band! The story is reminiscent of the recent cases of Asylum seekers in Tullamore and Bray, where the boys were allowed to stay due to pressure put on the government by the community and their fellow students. These people can be seen as local heroes, fighting against the injustices they see in the world around them. This production highlights their good work and shows what an organised group of local residents can achieve.
Mr Girvan: Callum Cuthbertson
Agnesa: Chiara Sparkes
Roza: Sophie Lewis
Noreen: Terry Neason
Ewelina: Stephanie McGregor
Jennifer: Shannon Swan
Emma: Kara Swinney
Amal: Aryana Ramkhalawon
Ensemble / Composer: Patricia Panther
Musician / Fiddle: Laura Jane Wilkie
Conceived for the stage and Directed by: Cora Bissett
Book by: David Greig
Original Musical Arrangements: Hilary Brooks
Musical Director and Arrangement Updates: Gavin Whitworth
Set Design / Costume Updates: Jessica Brettle
Original Set / Costume Design: Merle Hensel
Choreography: Natasha Gilmore
Lighting Design: Lizzie Powell
Sound Design: Garry Boyle
Original Sound Design: Fergus O’Hare
Composers: Cora Bissett, Hilary Brooks, Kielty Brothers, MC SoomT Patricia Panther. (To A Mouse – Robert Burns in an arrangement by the Battlefield Band)