With Skunk Anansie playing overhead the stage is set, quite literally, as if we’re about to watch a gig. And in some respects, we are. Cora Bissett’s deeply personal show, What Girls Are Made Of, sits gloriously where theatre and live music meet, as it comes to the end of its world tour at the Soho Theatre.
For those not clued up on late 90s indie music history (I count myself among this number) Cora Bissett was the lead single of the (almost) famous band Darling Hearts. Yet to say that this show is purely about the rise and dramatic fall of her band would be reductive. Rather, this show charts a women’s progression into adulthood, motherhood and personhood. It is tender, rhythmical, poetic and filled with live music that is enough to make your bones jingle. As opposed to the more classic burn out story of young bands, this focuses on Bissett’s family life, along with exposing the dark side of the music industry and the all too common but undepicted story of the many creative endeavours that didn’t quite make it to the big time.
With a rocking concept and plot, some wonderful writing and Patti Smith-esq vocals from Bissett the rest of the show supports and extends this already impressive base. Set completely within a gig setup, large luminous arches light up the space in various dazzling formations. Lizzie Powell’s lighting keeps the piece zipping along but still allows room for emotional changes of pace. The cast is impressively versatile, working well to create every other character in the tale along with playing guitar and drums and singing. And they do all this in a limited space. Harry Ward’s ability to multi-role is truly outstanding as he seamlessly morphs from crooked managers to Bissett’s mother. Simon Donaldson’s depiction of her father, confused and softened by Alzheimer’s, is an emotional sucker punch whilst Emma Smith’s Constant drumming, and engrossing vocal solo is a real treat.
What Girls Are Made Of joyfully celebrates Bissett’s Scottish heritage, her past, her present and her future. It Shows a slice of music history without egoistically name-dropping, giving insights into the bands we’re more likely to remember such as Blur and Radiohead (as the Darling Hearts toured with them). While this is offers something to excite all the music lovers, the most important part of the show is the discussion of identity. As Bissett’s says “people’s dreams are delicate things” and in a hard world the overarching message of strength, bravery and kindness is felt. As the lights flash, the guitars wale, drums thunder and Bissett uplifts the audience with one final tremulous shriek we are transported to the 90s, to a pub in Glenrothes, captivated as the band starts their journey.
Author: Cora Bissett
Director: Orla O’Loughlin
Producer: Margaret-Anne O’Donnell, Gillian Garrity
Box Office: 020 7478 0100
Booking Link: https://sohotheatre.com/shows/what-girls-are-made-of/
Booking Until: 28 September 2019