The Student
Review
Glasgow Girls
by Demelza Williams, 1/02/19

Glasgow Girls is an unexpectedly moving and poignant musical, and a necessary heart warmer to the bitter weather and political climate.

Glasgow Girls follows the true story of six teenage girls, Roza (Sophia Lewis), Agnessa (Chiara Sparkles), Ewelina (Stephanie McGregor), Amal (Aryana Ramakhalawon), Jennifer (Shannon Swan), and Emma (Kara Swinney) growing up together in Glasgow, living in the same Highrise and attending the same school under the tutelage of their inspirational teacher Mr Girvan (Callum Cuthbertson). Four of these girls, Roza, Ewelina, Amal, and Agnessa are asylum seekers who have found their unlikely Eden in Glasgow, a city that they had never heard of until they were sent there. The play is the first to find the irony and self-deprecation humour in the unlikelihood of this fact, and yet with a gritty resilience and pride of their city which is funny and heart-warming.

Under the looming threat of the UK deportation services, the girls form an unbreakable bond, becoming known as ‘The Glasgow Girls’ who managed to fight prejudice and stereotypes of asylum seekers and worked tirelessly for the safety and justice of families trying desperately to survive with all the odds stacked against them. The audience are offered raw experiences of what it is like to live in a community where your neighbours can be ripped away from you at any moment and exposes the brutal reality of the systematic unfairness to asylum seekers by the government and communities. The depiction of a community which fights back against cruelty and injustice makes this a musical of unique political importance.

The musical is almost operatic in terms of its multitude of songs which are integrated seamlessly and gracefully into the performance with a West End worthy live band (which would be worth seeing just for itself). The intelligence of the set design was also of stand-out quality. The colourful bars of the playground are seamlessly metamorphised into the balcony of a Glasgow Highrise and the bars of deportation cells. This acts as a grim parody of the luxury (although admittedly imperfect) of the British education system, as does the humbling happiness that it brings to children who have had to fight for the right to even attend school in the first place.

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Glasgow Girls tackles sensitive issues with intelligence and humour and does essential work in countering the toxic images portrayed by right-wing media of negative stereotypes of asylum seekers and refugees. It is a fascinating exploration of the brutal impacts of deportation, detention centres and dawn raids. It carries through its songs and dances a significant message about prejudice and the importance of kindness, which is important now more than ever.

Glasgow Girls

23rd-26th January

King’s Theatre

Image Credit: Niall Walker