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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

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – Active Virgin, C Venue C

Book, Music and Lyrics: John Keilty & Gerry Kielty

Director: Susie Dumbreck

Musical Director: Andrea Grody

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews.

The Cameron Mackintosh Highland Quest for New Musical winners the Kielty brothers and One Academy Productions bring Active Virgin to Edinburgh for its premier, and in many ways this reviewer wishes they hadn’t bothered. Following on the heels of the highly-lauded Wasted Love this piece seems to suffer from serious lack of effort on the part of the hugely praised writers.

The story tracks the quest for the body beautiful and the obsession it has become for the 247GYM members. They are beginning to lose track of what’s really important in life – but will the madness stop before it’s too late?

Again the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland deliver the most accomplished of vocal performances but the acting was straying wildly into hammy territory. The blame though can be put squarely in the lap of the writing. As well as being musically uninspired, with too many ensemble pieces, it felt like a step back in time as far as originality. It is a series of disjointed vignettes rather than a cohesive piece and it needs a clear thread to string it together. We are treated to Botox; plastic surgery, steroids, self-hate and serious amounts of misogyny with few of the advertised laughs, and the uncomfortably forced jokes soon wear thin.

Ultimately all this show is trying to say is that the search for perfection is impossible but it takes an hour to tell it, and with little variation it makes you wish the minutes away.

If this is your first experience of One Academy or the Royal Conservatoire then don’t let this put you off, they’ve been let down by their choice of material rather than their abilities. Save your money and go and see one of their other shows: Company or Towards The Moon.