Theatre review: What Girls Are Made Of, Traverse Theatre
The star quality of Cora Bissett has been a driving force in Scottish theatre for at least 15 years.
What Girls Are Made Of, Traverse Theatre (Venue 15) ****
She was the first-ever Helena in David Greig’s Midsummer, now gracing the international festival stage; as a producer and director she has been the prime mover behind passionate, campaigning shows like the musical Glasgow Girls, last year’s Fringe smash-hit Adam, and the 2009 site-specific sensation Roadkill.
Long before any of that, though, Bissett was a teenage rock star, lead singer of the 1990s indy band the Darlinghearts, and it’s around that extraordinary experience – of being plucked from school in Fife to the crazy world of major headline tours with bands like Radiohead and Blur – that she builds the storyline of her joyful and radiantly energetic new biographical show What Girls Are Made Of, which also represents her own debut as a playwright.
Bissett unfolds her story as a kind of illustrated monologue, featuring a range of terrific supporting performances from Susan Bear, Simon Donaldson and Grant O’Rourke as both her fellow band-members and many other characters, and driven at every step by the shuddering post-punk brilliance of the music. Bissett’s transformation as she approaches the microphone to sing, into something much wilder and more hard-edged than her usual smiling persona, is both chilling and thrilling to watch.
And if, in the end, the story of Bissett’s unfolding creative life becomes slightly overwhelmed by personal detail, it’s still difficult to resist the gentle humorous perfection of Donaldson and O’Rourke’s performances as her wonderful parents, the force of the music, or the sheer skill and vividness of Bissett’s writing.
The poster image for the show features Bissett with her guitar, in full rock-star mode, and her little daughter reaching up towards a mum who is herself a remarkable role model for the next generation of girls, and who also fully understands her own debt to the people who made her, repaid in full in this beautiful, passionate and exhilarating show.
• Until 26 August. Today 1pm