Glasgow Girls impress
February 21, 2013 — Review
Written by Harmit Athwal
A new musical based on the story of the Glasgow Girls, who fought for the rights of asylum seeking children, is a masterpiece.
The Glasgow Girls was the name given to a group of young girls who began campaigning after a school friend was arrested for deportation in a dawn raid. A campaign emerged at Drumchapel High School around the case of Agnesa Murselaj and her family who were Roma Gypsies from Kosovo and then gathered force as more and more children from the school were targeted for deportation.
You may think, ‘How depressing a story to tell’, but no. I never thought a piece of theatre could be so inventive, gripping and radical. There is no avoiding the politics of the story about a group of young girls, (asylum seekers and local girls), who fought for their rights and those of the young people at Drumchapel High School which they all attended. (It must be remembered that the story is about events that took place seven years ago and the conditions for asylum-seeking children have probably worsened, with a greater emphasis on returning unaccompanied children once they reach the age of 18). The beauty of the musical play is that you are not being beaten over the head with the politics – which are just subtly woven through like a leitmotif. And we are presented with alternative political points of view, those of the immigration officer and the working-class father. Glasgow Girls is not just left-wing propaganda; if it is propaganda, then it’s very good propaganda!
The nine actors, which include one man, are all excellent in their varied roles. The staging is simple but effective with a concrete monolith tower block looming in the background. In the packed few hours, there is something for everyone – humour (with a song about dog s**t), pacey and frenetic dance routines, which move the action on, music from all sorts of genres – folk ballads, rap, hip and hop and grime – which fit neatly into telling the story of a modern multicultural school.
The play highlights the role that the Glasgow Girls and their supporters played in drawing attention to the increasing use of dawn raids at that time. There is also a story of solidarity which emerged from the local community (portrayed by the excellent ‘Doreen from the block’) in preventing the raids from taking place.
Glasgow Girls has a political take in that it deals with why people seek asylum and the inhumanity they have to suffer after they are designated ‘asylum seekers’. But the politics isn’t being forced down your throat. Glasgow Girls is compelling, emotional and, above all, hopeful. It is highly, highly recommended.
Book here for the Glasgow Girls
Glasgow Girls, written by David Greig and directed by Cora Bissett, is on at the Stratford East Theatre until Saturday 2 March 2013.
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.