Review: What Girls Are Made Of ****


What Girls Are Made Of

Traverse Theatre, v15

various (ends 26 August, not Mondays)

**** (4 stars)

Noise and sound and lights and screaming and music and pain and joys and sorrow and grief and heartache and the ordinary and extraordinary people and influences that have made Cora Bisset who she is are played out right in front of our eyes by Cora herself and an extraordinarily talented trio of actor-musicians who bring to life the characters whom she met along her way. Susan Bear – drummer extraordinaire who also plays keyboards – and guitarists Simon Donaldson and Grant O’Rourke not only play and sing in the guise of the various bands Darling Heart supported and back Cora’s songs, but play all the other characters in Cora’s story. I think my favourite has to be Cordelia, the photographer flown in from Berlin to do Cora’s first photo shoot, though judging from audience reaction they also had the members of the various bands down to a tee too.

What are girls made of? Sugar, spice and a lot of other things that may or may not be nice… One thing that was news to me was that an egg doesn’t simply sit in the womb and wait for some random sperm among all those wriggling and jostling and fighting to be the first to fertilise it, but actively monitors and discards and finally selects the one it thinks most suitable…how’s that for a metaphor for the women’s movement, eh? And for young women to take on board, too…

Cora’s is a fascinating story even if, unlike me, you knew the first thing about her. For someone who knows nothing of her or her past, it was riveting, and Cora herself mesmerising as she led us through her story, from the unlikely beginnings in Glenrothes in Fife, where answering an ad “Band Seeks Singer” catapulted her into an amazing rock star-like lifestyle – until it all came crashing around her ears not once but twice while she was still a teenager. That she is now a director, actor, writer and songwriter with a string of hits to her name is a tribute not only to her own strength of character, but to the support and encouragement of her parents, who are lovingly brought to life and celebrated in this piece.

It’s a brilliant script, superbly played, rising to tequila-fuelled manic heights and descending to the uttermost pits of despair, with great humour, love, pity, a surprising absence of bitterness and a huge dose of common sense in the mix too. You’ll laugh, cry, gasp and ultimately cheer till the rafters ring to applaud this tour de force which celebrates the multifarious elements that go to make up one single girl – a pretty amazing person, and one whom anyone would be proud to emulate, who rose like a Phoenix from the ashes of her first bitter disappointments, refuses to be anyone’s puppet, and has created a career which for me personally far outstrips any fame she might have had as a singer – though she is an incredible singer, too.

Traverse 1 was packed: I suggest you hurry to book your ticket or there won’t be any left….

Mary Woodward