What Girls Are Made Of review – I was a teenage indie star

Traverse, Edinburgh
Darlingheart’s Cora Bissett writes and stars in an artfully told look at the highs and lows of her time in a band

Cora Bissett was a teenager when her Glenrothes-based band Darlingheart secured one of the biggest record deals in Scottish music history and shot to fame. Her bandmates were still tangled in exams. Potentially life-changing gigs clashed with school concerts, and free drinks on flights made them giddy, but innocence soon waned as she came up against the industry and had to deal with broken friendships and being sexualised by the media too young.

Twenty-five years on, Bissett reveals that the feeling of being out of your depth never fades. Taking stock in this autobiographical story infused with humour and song, the former indie star uses gig-theatre in a way that could suit few performers better.

Bissett intersperses her artfully told stories with songs she loved, many by women who have made a name for themselves in a world dominated by men: Patti Smith’s Horses, Dress by PJ Harvey, Dolly Parton’s Jolene. She demonstrates the confidence fame gives and shows how it can be knocked by a bad review.

However far the professional fall, it’s the personal struggles that sting the most. It’s easy to forget that rock stars have parents too, and Bissett’s description of her father’s memory fading is a sucker punch. She gets across something of the fear of being a parent as well: wanting the best for your child but not knowing where each decision will lead.

Bissett is a warm presence and a magnificent performer. Directed by Orla O’Loughlin, the cast also includes actor-musicians Simon Donaldson and Grant O’Rourke and producer-engineer Susan Bear, who all dive between characters, switching from family debates to playground fights and wild tour nights.

As she stands centre stage, surrounded by winding microphone cables and neon borders, there is no one telling Bissett what she can say, wear, sing or be. In a Pixies T-shirt, she is at once her teenage indie-kid self, listening to her song on the radio for the first time, and a mother and performer, the drum beat of her young daughter’s heart echoing behind her. Holding a box of magazine clippings that her dad collected, she clings to her memories to ground herself. As she shouts defiantly into the microphone with music pulsing through the theatre, the night belongs to her.


Kate Wyver

The GuardianTramp

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