Not, perhaps, since 1973 –when John McGrath and his 7:84 theatre company staged their legendary play The Cheviot, The Stag And The Black Black Oil – has Scottish musical theatre packed a political punch as hard as Glasgow Girls.
Like the Cheviot, Cora Bissett and David Greig’s musical about seven Drumchapel schoolgirls’ successful campaign against the deportation of a refugee family seems destined to be remembered as a landmark show in Scottish theatre.
Boasting a talented, all-singing, all-dancing cast of young women as the titular girls, and fine performances from more experienced actors Callum Cuthbertson and Myra McFadyen in the crucial supporting roles, the piece is as smartly crafted and hard-hitting a work of popular theatre as I have seen in a very long time.
Cora Bissett’s production for the Citizens, National Theatre of Scotland and a host of other partners may sucker-punch the audience with a knowingly schmaltzy feel-good opening, but the emotional impact of the show, as conceived by director Bissett with writer David Greig and composers Soom T, Patricia Panther and the Kielty Brothers, is undeniable.
The Herald ★★★★
Throughout, numbers such as At It, by Patricia Panther (who plays most of the nasty characters), emphasise the reality of the story. The letter writing campaign, the trip to Edinburgh to lobby the then first minister Jack McConnell – together with verbatim reports of some of the speeches made at Holyrood – are brilliantly told. It’s related with enough panache to induce tears.
The music is by five composers, led by the amazing Sumati Bhardwaj (Soom T). The script is by the magnificent David Greig. And Cora Bissett directs a show that plays up to many of Glasgow’s favourite dreams about itself; but is nonetheless the kind of explosion of great popular theatre that every city and every nation needs, from time to time – to remind it of what it is and what it might become.
The Scotsman ★★★★
Whatever one’s views on the vexed issue of UK asylum policy, by the time this show comes to its close – a fine musical montage built around Robert Burns’s famous poem “To a Mouse” – there can be little doubt that Bissett and co have created a significant milestone in Scottish musical theatre.
The Telegraph ★★★★