Skip to main content

Cora Bissett – What Girls Are Made Of

Cora Bissett never planned to put her own story onstage. Why would she? Over the last decade, the Fife-born actress turned director and theatre-maker has carved out an impressive niche for herself creating politically-driven work. Bissett’s passion for human rights has been brought to bear directing shows such as Roadkill, which looked at sex trafficking on our doorstep. Glasgow Girls was a musical based on the true story of the young refugee women who helped stop dawn raids on asylum seekers. Adam was another true story about a trans asylum-seeker’s journey to acceptance in Glasgow.

Many won’t be aware of Bissett’s own past when, still a teenager, she and Darlingheart, the indie-rock band she fronted, were signed to a major record label. Darlingheart toured with Radiohead and Blur, while Bissett appeared on the cover of glossy magazines before things crashed in a spiral of mis-management, debt and disappointment.

A quarter of a century on, Bissett has returned to her roots with What Girls Are Made Of, a new autobiographical play in which she plays herself in a dramatic look at how she got from there to here.  

“I’d never once thought my own story was remotely interesting or extraordinary in any way,” says Bissett, “but a little conflation of things came together in my head last year, and started to make it feel bigger than the sum of its parts. Part of that came from watching Adam, which was such an amazing story, and made me reflect on my own journey, realising that those teenage years were actually quite profoundly formative.

“I’d gone from just being at school to getting into a band, as many people do, but then, within a tiny window of time, we did our demo, it got played on the radio, we got a management deal and a record deal within four or five months. It was nuts. Suddenly you’re catapulted into this crazy world. If that hadn’t happened, I’d probably have gone to Glasgow Uni and done English Lit and done whatever. But because it crashed as horrifically as it did, probably in a weird way that had the biggest impact on forming who I am now.”

Bissett stumbled on her old diaries, including one from the Darlingheart years where every detail had been obsessively logged.

“Reading it was like watching myself grow up,” she says. “I could hear my tone change and my perspective shifting. I can hear myself working stuff out over this two or three-year period.”

Much of the drive for What Girls Are Made Of came from Bissett’s own daughter.

“Although it’s a rock and roll rollercoaster ride, it’s very much about getting to her as well, and that started me thinking about my relationship with my own parents. They had to sign this rock and roll contract for me in this pub in Kirkcaldy because I was too young. That was deeply embarrassing for me, but how must that have felt for them, signing me off to this future that no-one had any knowledge of? Being a mum now as well, I’ve started thinking about how you let go and when you let go. My daughter’s only two and a half, so all that’s a lot way off, but what have I got to give her or tell her about my own journey?”

Things have moved on since Bissett’s brush with the music business, both for her personally, and on a wider level, where a new generation of female-driven bands are doing things for themselves at a grassroots DIY level.

“Young women now are light years ahead of where I was,” Bissett says, “and they should just enjoy making a noise and hold on to the power they’ve got. I want this show to be a celebration. I don’t want it to be self-indulgent, but I think it’s a tribute to my parents, and I think there’s a lot of love in the piece, because it’s about where I came from.”

What Girls Are Made Of, Traverse Theatre until August 26, various times.

The Herald, August 7th 2018

ends



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Futureproof 2017

Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until February 4th 2018
Four stars

Now in its ninth year, Futureproof's showcase of recent graduate photographers from seven Scottish art schools and universities returns to its spiritual home at Street Level, with nineteen artists embracing photo essays, abstraction and constructed narratives. It is Karlyn Marshall's Willies, Beuys and Me that grabs you first. Tucked in a corner, this depiction of a woman impersonating iconic artist Joseph Beuys says much about gender stereotyping, and recalls Manfred Karge's play, Man to Man, in which a German woman took on her dead husband's identity.

The personal and the political converge throughout. Ben Soedera's Foreign Sands contrasts natural resources and the constructed world. Gareth and Gavin Bragdon's The Bragdon Brothers moves onto the carnivalesque streets of Edinburgh. Kieran Delaney's Moments also looks at the apparently ordinary. Matthew Buick goes further afield, as tourists…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Bdy_Prts

Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Saturday December 2nd


It should probably come as no surprise that professional dancers are in the audience for the Edinburgh leg of this mini tour by spectral performance art/pop auteurs Bdy_Prts on the back of the release of their sublime debut album, The Invisible Hero. Beyond the music, the raison d’etre of Bdy_Prts’ dynamic duo of Jill O'Sullivan and Jenny Reeve, after all, is a flamboyantly costumed display of kinetic physical jerks and modernist shape-throwing to illustrate a set of fizzing machine-age chorales.

In this sense, the Bdy_Prts live experience is several works of art for the price of one that's a long way from the pair's formative work fronting Sparrow and the Workshop (O'Sullivan) and Strike the Colours (Reeve). Part living sculptures, part Bloomsbury Group super-heroines, part widescreen pop fabulists, O'Sullivan and Reeve paint their faces with ancient symbols and sport customised shoulder pads that look both seasonally …