This is a high-energy musical show which attracts huge crowds: it first opened in 2012, and has rightly earned a name for itself since then. It follows the true story of a group of schoolgirls – a number of them refugees – who found themselves in Glasgow in 2005 on temporary visas while their families’ applications for asylum were being considered.
Not everyone will realise that an application for “leave to remain” can be in progress for years before the Home Office makes a decision on it. During that time, as this show successfully depicts, children of the families like those here are busy learning English, and forming friendships as well as dreams for the future. To all intents and purposes, Glasgow – or the place of their temporary asylum – is their home.
The show does a good job of making individuals out of the group term “refugees”. This friendship group includes a girl from Croatia; one day the girls discover their friend has been taken by immigration officers the night before, because Croatia has been deemed “safe”. In an amazing feat of girl power, we watch them succeed in assisting the family and their dear friend to return – because they are Kurds, and the land is not safe for Kurds.
Overall it’s a feel-good show, with an enjoyable variety of music styles, performed by talented young people who seem to be having a great time; their energy is infectious. However, whilst it’s visually appealing and I easily got the gist of the songs in the context, at times the combination of singing and Glaswegian accents meant that the words were lost to me. And though the girls’ English teacher Mr Girvan is endearing in role, his turn singing and playing his guitar feels a bit self-indulgent, and doesn’t drive the story forward.
A scene where Home Office officials announce they are interested in “facts” is a chilling, if necessary, counterpoint to the human stories portrayed. But still, for me, scenes like these don’t come across as shocking and uncomfortable as they might do. After all, the show is entertainment – like any musical.
The girls say that “anyone can be a Glasgow girl” if they want to be. Googling them after the show revealed that one of the original girls now works for a political party on immigration issues, and doesn’t rule out being a politician in the future. Overall though, I think young people watching this show may be more likely to be inspired to take up song and dance than campaigning.