‘What Girls are Made of’ is a deeply introspective and yet refreshingly playful performance written by and starring Cora Bissett: the (almost famous) lead singer of the 90s indie-band ‘Darlingheart’. Fresh from its sold-out run in the Edinburgh Fringe and now being performed in the Soho Theatre, Bissett breathes her teenage diary to life and delicately charts her journey. We see her as a 17-year-old girl living in a small Scottish town, high on youth and ambition, and watch her transform into shimmering singer, partying and touring the UK with Radiohead.
‘What Girls are made of’ is a fun, exciting musical – it will have you nodding your head and humming the songs on the tube back home. However, underneath its fun, gig-style delivery remains Bissett’s poignant reflection. The narrative is constructed thoughtfully, with themes of parenthood, loss, betrayal and confusion threaded throughout. Bissett’s singing is powerful, her stage presence is commanding, and yet the most moving aspect of her performance is her ability to reflect. The audience doesn’t just witness a girl growing up and becoming a singer. Far from a simplistic coming-of-age arc, ‘What Girls Are Made Of’ exhibits the complex iterative process of reflection undertaken by Bissett as she digests her own experiences. The result is stunning: we see the various forms Bissett has been incarnated in throughout her life. We see her as not just as the woman in front of us, but as the girl she once was and the woman she will later grow up to be.
The songs and performance are fast-paced. Scattered throughout the ballads and rock anthems, Bissett creates moments of both comedic and emotional gold, presenting a true testament to her writing and versatility on stage. Accompanying, and by no means overshadowed by, Bisset are her dynamic 3-person live band. The cast put on an energetic show with singing, guitar solos, fantastic drumming and hilarious impersonations of the eccentric people Bissett meets along her journey. I must add that their Scottish accents do make some jokes and lyrics hard to decipher, despite this, the cast will still have you laughing out loud, singing along and (at times) shedding a tear or two.
The Soho Theatre offers an intimate venue for the performance. The room is filled with light theatre smoke, thin neon tubes outline the stage and the cast are wearing exactly what you would expect them to wear if they were rehearsing in their basement. The set design is simple, but rather than appearing reductivist the set-up feels charming and familiar, resonant of a student union or school production.
Prior to seeing this show I had no knowledge of Cora Bissett, of her band or of any of her songs. Despite this, the cast’s energy and Bissett’s heart-warming vulnerability create a truly fantastic show with a powerful message of self-reflection – a show not to be missed.
- 5 stars