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  • Kate Gaul

What Girls Are Made Of - Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Raw Material & Traverse Theatre Company in association with Regular Music present a return season of “What Girls Are Made Of” – 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. And this brilliant gig musical is a record of those years and what happened next. This is – believe it or not – is a totally relatable story. As Cora says, “dreams are fragile” and we all have them. We all know betrayal and disappointment as well as the highs of success. The dreams and naivety of youth are captured and reflects on by the now mature voice of experience – in disbelief of how little she knew at the time.

“It’s the early 90s. In a small town in Fife, a girl is desperate to get out into the world. An ad in the local paper declares: Band Seeks Singer.”

Based on her meticulously detailed teenage diaries, this is the true story of Cora Bissett’s rollercoaster journey from the girl she was to the woman she wanted to be.

Directed by Orla O’Loughlin it flies by. The cast of four have a lot of fun making music and telling this story. Joining Cora Bisset are Harry Ward and Simon Donaldson – both guitarists who take on multiple roles: Cora’s mum, Thom York, smelly schoolgirl, bad band manager – are all memorable. Cathryn Archer plays the drums, keyboard, and guitar with great flair. Collectively, they create the soundscape of the 90s, from Darlingheart’s own songs to Radiohead. They cast occasionally use very heavy Scottish accents and its quite fun working out exactly what is being said. It does sound incredible. This is all plays on a geomatic stage design of levels by Ana Ines Labares-Pita which lights up colourfully and is basically a really slick space for the band. There are even colour co-ordinated drink bottles!

Insights into teenage success where the band were still sitting exams, playing in school concerts, discovering little bottles of wine on the flight to London and the exploitation grip our attention. Then once the band breaks up and Cora struggles to find her way stories from the other side of life emerge. Her father’s dementia, her mother’s MS, and a long-held desire to find someone who wants the same things as her – a child. The brutally honest longing, the stories of miscarriages, inevitable death of parents is a reminder that we are always out of our depth as we navigate life’s big events. Bissett is a fabulous performer and as a musician her rendition of Patti Smith’s “Horses” sounds like an original. She dedicates the final song to her daughter, telling her “What Girls Are Made Of”.

This is a huge inter-generational success: the young women in the audience were cheering for more as the show ended. The older women were dabbing eyes dry.

Kate Gaul


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