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Posts Tagged ‘Myra McFadyen’

If they invent time travel while I’m still around, one of my first theatrical journeys will be back to the 50’s / 60’s to see a Theatre Workshop performance at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. For now, I’ll settle for this wonderfully alive, passionate, heart-warming, populist, campaigning piece which is as close to the spirit of Joan Littlewood as its possible to get.

This musical, with an appropriately diverse range of musical styles, is based on the true stories of a bunch of schoolgirls, their ‘schemie’ neighbours and teachers who campaign for their asylum seeking friends and neighbours who are being deported, back to allegedly newly safe countries. Though clearly partizan, the views of those that oppose them are also presented, and not as complete baddies. It also confronts the fact that, despite the noise they make, they are unable to halt the deportations, so it’s not entirely feelgood.

Staged in front of, and on, Merle Hensel’s incredibly realistic tower block, just nine actors play all roles – the girls, neighbours, teachers, press, politicians, police – with great energy and conviction. Clearly, it revolves around the six girls but in many ways the heart of the story lies with Callum Cuthbertson’s teacher Mr Girvan and Myra McFadyen’s neighbour Noreen (who I fell in love with and wanted to take home to become my neighbour!). Director / co-composer Cora Bissett and writer David Greig really have presented this story truthfully and effectively, without artifice or sentimentality.

The very young and very diverse audience were lively and noisy (an entire sweet shop was consumed in Stalls Row D alone) but in the end even they were silenced by the story and I am happy to have suffered the rustle because it meant they were there and they heard the story, far more important than an old man’s irritation! This is the sort of work TRSE have been doing for more than 60 years and it’s great to see them collaborating with comparative new-kids-on-the-block the National Theatre of Scotland, fast making their own name with the same balls TRSE has always had. It may be set in Glasgow, and the story could probably only unfold in Glasgow, but it is completely at home on the Stratford stage.

Terrific stuff, but you’ll have to move fast as it closes tomorrow!

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