Olivier award-winning director brings Glasgow Girls to Stratford

PUBLISHED: 15:34 27 January 2013 | UPDATED: 15:42 27 January 2013

Cora Bissett Picture: Andrew Wilson

Cora Bissett Picture: Andrew Wilson


Feisty director Cora Bissett is the woman behind the gutsy Glasgow Girls due to kick off at Theatre Royal Stratford East next month.

Glasgow Girls Dress Rehearsal.

Dawn Sievewright, Roanna Davidson, Frances Thorburn, Amaka Okafor, Stephanie McGregor,Ameira Darwish.

Picture: Drew Farrell.Glasgow Girls Dress Rehearsal. (l-r) Dawn Sievewright, Roanna Davidson, Frances Thorburn, Amaka Okafor, Stephanie McGregor,Ameira Darwish. Picture: Drew Farrell.

She is feisty, she’s funny and she produces works of theatre by listening to her gut instinct.

She is Cora Bissett – the woman behind the gutsy drama Glasgow Girls which is due to kick off at Theatre Royal Stratford East next month.

Although it tackles a difficult subject, Cora decided to stage it as a musical and she hopes it will make as big an impact as Roadkill, which won her an Olivier award last year.

The lass who was born in Fife in Glenrothes was aged just nine when she began staging little sketch shows in her garden, using curtains as backdrops, with a group of friends.

She thinks her unusual approach to theatre probably has a lot to do with her experiences in indie band Darlingheart as a teenager supporting the likes of Radiohead and Blur.

Cora, 36, said: “I think there was something from that era of the band, a boldness, that gave me a kind of fearlessness about creating theatre. There is a fundamental desire to communicate with people. It is a very direct form of communication and that has come from my experience with the band.

“We were not classically trained or playing by the rulebook, so I am listening to my gut instinct.

“Glasgow Girls is incredible - it’s a social, political commentary but I’ve turned it into a musical because it felt like the right thing to do.”

Glasgow Girls is the compelling true story of a group of seven teenage girls who are driven by a fierce sense of injustice to fight for the rights of the children of asylum seekers and succeed where adults and politicians have often failed.

Just as Roadkill was based on real-life events in which women are trafficked, so Glasgow Girls is based on the lives of real women.

Cora said: “I first planted the seed of Glasgow Girls as a show back in 2010 after seeing how the success of RoadKill had prompted audience members to take direct action.

“I wanted to use another ‘real-life’ story to reach out to people and let people know what was going on in their midst.

“Clare Tudor and Belinda McIllhenney at the Scottish Refugee Council agreed it would be a great story to dramatise and directed me towards Lindsay Hill’s documentary on the girls’ story, Tales From The Edge. It was after watching this, I came to the rather surprising but exciting conclusion that this story should be told as a musical, such was the life force emanating from the girls, and the myriad cultures they came from.

“The next step was to meet with all seven of the Glasgow Girls and their teachers from the time.

“Over a period of two years, I began slowly developing the show, experimenting with the various songwriters and working closely with Hilary Brooks (musical director) and David Greig, who came on board to write the play. We always wanted to treat people’s real lives with the utmost care and respect. We invited the girls, Euan Girvan, Wilson Blakey, Noreen Real and Jean Donnachie to all of our development stages, and shared the script with them, which they gave us detailed feedback on, and gradually built their trust.

“For me, there is something incredibly inspiring and life-affirming in this story, too. With all the discontent among our youth, I want a show which aims super high and shouts to the rooftops about what young people are capable of.

“On a simpler level, it is a big, bold, pulsing musical show, about seven feisty 15-year-old girls, trying to live, trying to grow up, and trying to work out what they can believe in, in this world.”

Now Roza is in her fourth year at Strathclyde University studying law and politics; Emma works for BBC Radio Scotland and is a volunteer presenter on Sunny Govan FM Radio; Jennifer is a nursery practitioner and a sergeant instructor in the Army Cadet Force; Agnesa works for the NHS; Ewelina married her childhood sweetheart and has a baby girl and another on the way; Amal has graduated in community development and is working to help survivors of psychological trauma; Toni Lee is a support worker for adults with learning difficulties; Wilson has retired, Euan still works at Drumchapel High School; and Noreen and Jean still live in the Kingsway flats. They continue to campaign for the rights of asylum seekers in the UK.

Glasgow Girls will be Theatre Royal Stratford East from February 8 until March 2.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Newham Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Newham Recorder