Cora Bissett’s newest play What Girls Are Made Of, just awarded a Fringe First by the Scotsman, is an empowering autobiographical affair. Unsure what to expect, I was completely taken aback by the extraordinary life of Bissett and the electrifying play it has inspired. With a set that reminded me of NTS’s Ladies of Perpetual Succour, I was swept away for an hour of music, rock ‘n’ roll and hilarious tales.
Bissett’s teenage diaries provided the framework of the play taking us through Bissett’s time in a band, touring with bands such as Radiohead and Blur (before they were cool). A small indie band from Kirkcaldy smashed its way into the music world with Bissett as the lead singer, and highs and lows followed. With three actors (also doubling up as talented musicians) helping, Bissett recreates her past to the amusement of the audience. Bissett’s energy is infectious and combined with the music the whole atmosphere is thrilling, loud and daring. O’Loughlin has got the best out of the four actors encouraging a frankness and honesty that leaves Bissett vulnerable to the audience and keeps the whole production intimate. Susan Bear, Simon Donaldson, Grant O’Rourke help bring characters from Bissett’s life to the stage with some fantastic impressions along the way.
Although Bissett occasionally stumbled over some sentences it never detracted from her performance and instead emphasized the personal nature of the production. Her story was being shared with the audience and she is far from perfect and wants us to know and celebrate it with her. There was no shying away from the lows in Bissett’s life; we learned of her father’s dementia, her miscarriages and the financial ruin her band breaking up caused. I felt the scenes towards the end of the play were when the production began to have a universal message. In particular, I found the last song extremely emotional and empowering. What Girls Are Made Of, the eponymous song, brought tears to my eyes as I thought about everything that makes us who we are and how little things have such a big impact. It was a wonderful evening and a joy to watch – I’m glad she chose to share her story with us!