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THEATRE REVIEW: Glasgow Girls at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

Glasgow girls is the true story of 7 girls driven by a fierce sense of injustice at the treatment of asylum seekers. The story tracks the arrival of 4 girls (Agnesa, Roza, Amal, Ewelina) fleeing their war torn countries of Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia during the early 90s when it became common practice to exile asylum seekers out of London to more remote and under populated regions of the country, like Glasgow.


My initial reaction to the opening of the show was whether this would be overly sentimental and cheesy. I’m not normally a fan of musicals! But the show is packed with a diverse range of exceptionally well-crafted modern musical pieces including electronic grime, reggae-dub and folk rock. This combined with the fast pace of the show, gritty storyline and polished energetic performances from all the characters soon put that idea to rest.


This show could succeed where others have failed, potentially melting the hearts of even the most xenophobic Daily Hate reader. By cleverly combining empathetic narratives with stark facts to paint a true picture of the realities of asylum seekers in the UK, common prejudices are shifted. For example did you know the UK is below average across Europe in terms of the number of asylum seekers we take in? And while it is bad enough to flee for your life, can you imagine what it is like for a family to always be in fear of being sent back to a country where they have no possessions, maybe no family and friends left and communities destroyed?


In the first act the main girls have just arrived to a rough inner Glasgow school unable to speak English. The headmaster assigns Mr Girvan, a left leaning English teacher with aspirations of folk stardom, to teach them English as a foreign language. Over the 5 of the story the girls are rapidly assimilated into Glaswegian culture and bonding with the local gangs and making friends with the spunky Jennifer, who lives each day as if she is a super hero and Emma, the school prefect smartypants.


Glasgow girls cleverly voice the common xenophobic concerns of the locals in relation to the asylum seekers through the interactions between the girls and they’re more hostile prejudice parents dispelling some of the myths attributed to the working class on large estates.


When key member of the gang Agnesa and her family are violently removed from their home of 5 years and taken to the deportation camp, the girls rapidly mobilize to launch a campaign to free her, engaging the school, teachers and local community along the way.


Agnesa and her family fled for their lives from Kosovo during the Balkans war. Their plight compounded by their Romany gypsy ancestry. In deciding to send them home, the British government had failed to take their Roma ancestry into account, using a ‘one size fits all’ criteria to expel asylum seekers, despite the fact that areas may not be safe for specific ethnic minorities, religions, families or sexual orientation.


The plucky Glasgow girls set out on a crusade to save her engaging the community, lobbying politicians, visiting the Scottish parliament and radio appearances. Perhaps that is enough to set the scene, as I don’t want to spoil the ending!


The show ended with rapturous applause with most of the audience rising to their feet to congratulate the cast along with the special guests of the evening, the real life Glasgow Girls! Many in the audience were moved to tears at this point.


This show is a winner. Despite the subject matter this show is filled with hilarity. I strongly recommend watching it. Everyone needs to be a Glasgow girl, rising up to fight injustice in the system through empathy, grit and determination.


Glasgow Girls
Runs until Sat 2nd March 2013
at Theatre Royal, Stratford East

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