What Girls Are Made Of Review By Cassandra-Elli Yiannacou
How to Build a Girl meets Almost Famous. In What Girls Are Made Of Cora Bisset croons the audience through brit pop, 90’s toughness and tough lessons learned young.
Cora Bisset steps onto the stage of the Spiegeltent and tells us she’s in her parents’ house, going through a box of press clippings her father had kept during her brush with fame. Then, the music begins slowly under her speech with all the feel of a movie montage. We’re still in the small town of Fife but now it’s the nineties and Cora doesn’t have all the wisdom she does now, just big dreams.
Years after her time in Darlingheart, Cora Bisset takes stock through her autobiographical music filled story. In the nineties her band signed a record deal that launched them to dizzying heights of fame, and as quickly as they went from worrying about school exams to sound checks they were back taken down again.
Calling this a one-woman show would be not only untruthful it would be unfair to the incredible bandmates and co-stars Emma Smith, Simon Donaldson and Harry Ward. All three share the stage with Cora for the entire time, jumping in and out of characters and accents with ease. A special mention to Harry Ward who had the audience in stitches just with his posture and folded arms while playing Cora’s no nonsense good hearted Scottish mother.
But the focus is Cora, it is her story after all, and living somewhere in between a play and storytelling lays the perfect form for this show. No other form would suit a show about an indie band on the circuit better than gig theatre. It has all the relaxation of being in a pub and lets Bisset dip in and out of stories, scenes and songs with ease.
Full credit to director Orla O’Loughlin, who has used every inch of the small space. Her direction ensures the show never feels static. A small stage suits the form so well the audience is able to immediately connect with the intimacy of the show, and when Bisset gestures up to the roof of the Spiegeltent marvelling the fairy lights you will be surprised to find only a striped tarp roof.
Leaning into the setting for the show rather than disguising it is a clever tactic. Why build a set for a band when all a band needs are a stage and themselves? The casts’ presence becomes the set with the occasional props being swapped in and out.
There are warning signs early about how exactly the bands relationship with their label will play out, which in someone else’s hands may feel obvious even though it is entirely true. But the cast capture teenage naivety and wonder so easily that we are suckered along with them. The novelty of being given free miniature wine on a plane trip over is joyful and you want to cheer on every new touring opportunity and rockstar like behaviour.
Bisset is magnetic on stage her soul bared and her voice raw. While we laugh at impressions of famous bands like Radiohead and Blur the description of her father losing his memory rips through the laughter still felt from only scenes before.
Any of the cynicism that may have hurt Darlingheart’s chances at a second album are beaten back with this unflinchingly earnest show. What Girls Are Made Of is joy, power, heartbreak and truth. And the final anthem will have you on your feet cheering for all the women in your life.