Glasgow Girls

Music and lyrics by Cora Bissett, Sumati Bhardwaj (Soom T), Patricia Panther and the Kielty Brothers

Pachamama Productions, National Theatre of Scotland and Regular Music

Assembly Hall

From 04 August 2016 to 28 August 2016

Rating: *****

Review by David Chadderton

On a set like a children's playground, this joyous, uplifting piece of political theatre sets its stage.

We are told in the opening narration that, in 1999, the UK Government decided to disperse asylum seekers around the country, and many came north of the border to Glasgow. The children were integrated into mainstream state schools despite having little or no English. The asylum process could take five years, by which time the families had made lives in Scotland and the children, even those not born here, had become British.

However when the claims failed or the countries from which the families have fled to save their lives are deemed "safe" by the UK government, they are taken away without warning in dawn raids, sometimes 14 officers to take away a mother and her child, and kept in detention until they can be repatriated.

The Glasgow Girls are a group of schoolchildren who, with the help of their teacher, campaign to have one of their friends released, and then mount a campaign to have night raids banned where there are children involved, which receives national media coverage.

There are some attempts to put across "The Other Side", with speeches from one of the border control officers and some doubts expressed by one of the girls' fathers, as well as some of the usual clichés about asylum seekers expressed in a radio 'phone-in programme. But this was never created as a balanced argument—it is a powerful polemic, with catchy songs.

It also tries to shatter some preconceptions, especially about the attitudes of the working classes on immigration. Scottish council estate resident Noreen, after telling us she never wanted to be in a musical, explains how they watch for the dawn raids from the early hours in order to warn any of their neighbours who may be vulnerable to hide.

The songs mix modern western rock and pop styles with flavours of music from some of the countries from which the children have fled, a mix which is echoed in the choreography.

It's a slickly directed piece with full-on, intense performances from all that can bring a full auditorium at the Assembly Hall to its feet.