Thursday, November 08, 2012

"Glasgow Girls" - November 2012

I doubt there's a greater compliment I can pay "Glasgow Girls" other than to say that at times it threatens to finally be the National Theatre of Scotland's 'next Black Watch'.  It can't maintain that high level throughout, but there are moments, several of them, that left my spine tingling.  And my only disappointment of the night was discovering when I got home that I couldn't buy the soundtrack.

Cleverly, David Greig's book mocks the very idea of a musical based on a group of schoolgirls campaigning against the treatment of asylum seekers in Glasgow - and some characters are happier than others to find themselves on stage.  Considering that the cast all play multiple roles (and at times themselves) it sounds on paper as if it could get very complicated, very quickly, but helped by some superfast costume changes it hangs together seamlessly.

While the show as a whole certainly doesn't feel overlong, some scenes and songs don't serve the show as well as others.  It's not that they weren't good - just that they dilute the truly great ones.  There are also times in the high tempo songs that the lyrics become very difficult to pick out.  It's frustrating for an audience when sounds levels aren't spot on, and a huge pity as the lyrics we did catch deserved to be heard.

From the playful "Opening Montage", through the earworm inducing "Glasgow Girls", the sinister "At It" to the devasting "It's No a Weans Choice" there is a massively diverse tone in the numbers, reflecting the contributions of the show's several composers (the Kielty Brothers, Soom T, Patricia Panther & Cora Bissett).  My own favourite was Bissett's "From the 16th Floor" - an ethereal lovesong to Glasgow, while Waldrof preferred the Kielty Brothers' punchy "Ain't Done Jack" but there are many others that last in the memory.

The cast all meet the enormous challenges set by director Cora Bissett and choreographer Natasha Gilmore admirably and it seems unfair to single out individuals but the short turns by Dawn Sievewright as Tommy Sheridan and Myra McFadyen as the 'headmaster' were magical.

Along with some wonderful songs, a talented cast and powerful story, "Glasgow Girls" has three more things going for it - its humour, emotion and a clear affection for Glasgow.  Despite the issues highlighted, it really wouldn't be a stretch to describe it as a musical comedy - there is no shortage of genuinely laugh out loud lines.  But there will also be tears - including many prompted by a single line, not even spoken on stage, that had half the audience reaching for their Kleenex.  Yet it rarely feels manipulative and avoids becoming mawkish.  The worst accusation you could legitimately throw at it would be that it gives a rose tinted portrayal of Glasgow, but it does acknowledge the city's problems and maybe it's no bad thing once in while to focus on the positive aspects of the city.

And just to show that I was paying attention, there's one more 'release' we'd like to see...

We, the undersigned, in recognition of our enjoyment of "Glasgow Girls" at the Citizens Theatre demand that the National Theatre of Scotland release, without delay, a cast recording of the soundtrack in order that we can continue our enjoyment.  While we recognise and appreciate that a version of the title track is already available, that's really just teasing us...  

What do We Want?  Glasgow Girls Soundtrack!  When do we want it? NOW!

Waldorf & Statler @ View From The Stalls

Feel free to add your comments on the show and demands for a soundtrack release in the 'heckles' below...

Glasgow Girls runs at the Citizens until 17th November and will be at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East in London from 8th Feb to 2nd March 2013.  The show is presented by the National Theatre of Scotland, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Citizens Theatre, Pachamama Productions, Richard Jordan Productions Ltd in association with Merrigong Theatre Company, Australia
Image by Drew Farrell used with permission.