Tag Archives: Myra McFadyen

REVIEW: The Choir – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

An Iraqi cardiac specialist, a teen on a zero hours contract at Sports Direct, a Tory ex-councillor, an unemployed graduate, an ex-con and a struggling single mum are among the 12 people who come together in a community centre in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, in Paul Higgins and Ricky Ross’ new musical The Choir, a collaboration between theatrical giants ATG and the Citizens Theatre to nurture new musical theatre from local writers and composers.

There’s no competition, no race to a prize. Instead, the drama comes from the interactions between this disparate chorus. The seemingly uplifting subject matter is initially turned on its head when instead of the sense of community and togetherness they hope to invoke by their shared love of singing, the sociological and political differences between the group rear their ugly heads. Those who exercise free will provoke those with conventional sensibilities and seemingly simple things offend and outrage. 

the choir citizens theatre

It all gets off to a spine-tingling start as Peter Polycarpou’s Khalid steps centre stage to sing the first of a series of intensely personal songs and the cast as a whole doesn’t disappoint. Glorious sounding en masse, there isn’t a weak link among them and, while it seems churlish to single any out, it is undoubtedly Ryan Fletcher as ex-con Donny and Scott Reid as little cousin Scott, who shine. Fletcher, in particular, is a stand-out, in possession of a glorious voice and a prodigious musical talent, it is for him you root for a happy ending.

the choir 2 citizens theatre

Eschewing the musical theatre convention of bursting into song at will, here the songs arise naturally and realistically from the narrative and are entirely pleasing to the ear, partly due to the seeming familiarity of some of the melodies, with shades of Oasis, The Beach Boys and The Beatles to name a few.

If criticism is to be made it’s that the characterisations are thin in some cases and points are hammered home at times with little subtlety, but the actors’ deft touches manage to imbue it all with real heart and soul and you can’t help caring for them all and willing the whole thing to a happy conclusion.

It’s not exactly groundbreaking (it has at times the same feel and tone as Glen Hansard’s Once), but it has to be applauded for bringing something new to the musical theatre stage, not a film or novel adaptation, not a jukebox musical, instead an original story and songs with entirely relatable subject matter.

As an evening’s entertainment, it may not be perfect but it comes pretty damn close – on the whole it is a thoroughly engaging and utterly irresistible evening’s theatre. The Choir is guaranteed to send you into the crisp autumn air with the cockles of your heart well and truly warmed.

Runs until 14 November 2015 | Image: James Glossop

This review was originally published at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/the-choir-citizens-theatre-glasgow/

REVIEW: Glasgow Girls – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 09.20.19First published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/glasgow-girls-citizens-theatre-glasgow/

Writer: David Greig

Composers: Cora Bissett, The Kielty Brothers, Patricia Panther & MC Soom T

Director: Cora Bissett

Glasgow 2005, and the city and its high rise blocks have become home to a diverse range of asylum seekers. Drumchapel High School has become the focus for the children of these asylum seekers, but it’s a world where night-time raids happen with alarming frequency and children arrive at school every day to find out whether another classmate has disappeared, never to be seen again.

Glasgow Girls explores the true story of seven teenage girls for whom the situation has become personal. Together with their neighbours and one inspiring teacher, the girls embark on a campaign to secure the return of their friend  Kosovan Roma Agnesa Murselaj, forcibly removed and detained after a nigh-time raid, and fight to change the UK Government’s policy on the detention of children of asylum seekers.

Returning triumphant to its spiritual home at the Citizens Theatre, two years after it’s debut, Glasgow Girlscouldn’t be more relevant in the year Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games and undertakes an historic vote in the Independence Referendum. It highlights the spirit of the Glaswegian people, their reaction to injustice and Glasgow’s protectiveness of those who choose to call the city home.

From dawn raids, deportation and detention, there is humour, hope and heart in this powerful, poignant, profound but utterly joyous and truly emotive piece of theatre. The subject matter is hard hitting for a musical and to its credit the book written by David Grieg, who’s last high profile work Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, continues to run in the West End, hasn’t shied away from portraying the less positive aspects of both the campaign and life in Glasgow, resisting both the urge to sugar coat the subject matter and descend into mawkish sentimentality. It also highlights the impotency of the Holyrood Government in the face of opposition from Westminster (it’s also the most eloquent advert for the YES campaign you’ll see or hear this year). Instead this is a bold, brave, blistering, beautiful joy to behold. The story is told with trademark Glaswegian humour which takes no prisoners and is consistently laugh out loud funny.

The music is as diverse as the girls it represents, there are modern musical theatre numbers with a Scottish twist by The Kielty Brothers and director/composer Cora Bissett, rap and urban tunes by Patricia Panther and MC Soom T. The spare but atmospheric set by Merle Hensel also compliments the story well: conjuring up the grey concrete of Glasgow’s high rise blocks perfectly.

The whole endeavour though, would not succeed as it does without the truly sensational cast. Each and every one is deserving of praise but special mention must go to the ‘grown ups’ Callum Cuthbertson as Mr. Girvan and Scottish theatrical legend Myra McFadyen as Noreen, both deliver perfectly judged performances: in turn, poignant, stirring, compelling and utterly hysterical.

Glasgow Girls has a sharp intelligent edge and is a perfect reflection of the big heart and community spirit of the city of its title, of female solidarity and of what we can all achieve if we put our hearts and minds together. Genuinely moving and inspiring. Utterly unmissable.

Runs until 8 March 2014

Photographic credit: Drew Farrell