What Girls are Made Of (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh)

Posted: August 16, 2018 in Theatre

Writer: Cora Bissett      Director:Orla O’Loughlin


Sugar and spice and all things nice? In this case, not exactly; once a rock ’n’ roll singer, Cora Bissett looks to be made more of grit and graft and sheer resilience as she crashes into the rocks, rolls with the punches and always bounces back to get on with her life.

Bissett, now an actor and theatre maker of repute, was born in Glenrothes, Fife and her account of her teenage years is triggered when she is clearing her parents’ loft in 2015 and rummaging through memorabilia. She asks herself what she is made of, how she has become what she is today and she takes us with her on her journey of discovery. Her story, told with humour and in mildly self-deprecating style, begins in 1992 when she dreams of emulating Patti Smith and nears its end over 20 years later when her father, now suffering from dementia, mistakes her for Dolly Parton. 

The young Cora answers an ad to become lead singer in a rock band and gets whisked away to London, receiving her free in-flight bottle of wine with glee. She becomes prey to sleazy management, parties wildly, tours with a then little-known band named Radiohead (“…so goddamn…posh…I don’t think they’re goin’ anywhere”) and brushes with Blur.

Director Orla O’Loughlin keeps the production simple, having Bissett front-up a four-piece band made up with Susan Bear, Simon Donaldson and Grant O’Rourke, who play the instruments and share all the supporting roles. Bissett’s music enriches the story, ranging from angry rock anthems to soulful ballads of yearning. Many will leave the show with the pressing question on their lips: “when is the album due out?”

The joys and heartbreaks of Bissett’s private life are not overlooked and there were times during this performance when she was, understandably, overcome with emotion. We share her feelings. We have heard stories of rises and falls in the music business many times before, but never quite like this, never so personal nor with such endearing honesty and raw passion. 

Performance date: 8 August 2018

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com

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