When Cora Bissett’s autobiographical gig theatre epic first appeared at the Traverse Theatre last year as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it pretty much stole the heart of everyone who saw it. Bissett’s Herald Angel winning tale of how she went from being a geeky Fife teenager to being signed to a major record label with the band she was suddenly the face of was more than a mere nostalgia trip to more innocent if more excessive times. For all her true life adventures of touring with Radiohead and Blur before everything crashed and burned, it tapped into something more personal, more profound and more moving.
Eight months or so since its debut, and like any indie band paying its dues, this revival of Bissett’s show has moved up a gear into a bigger venue before preparing to take the world by storm. For a show which has already made the big time without selling out its rock and roll soul, this isn’t a problem.
It starts quietly, with Bissett standing alone on Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s black box of a set that resembles every sweaty basement venue since time immemorial. Here she begins to unearth her own back catalogue following the death of her father, rewinding to a time when all her teenage dreams suddenly whisked her away to a seemingly more glamorous life.
With Bissett accompanied onstage by actor/musicians Susan Bear, Simon Donaldson and new band member Harry Ward, there’s not a note wrong in Orla O’Loughlin’s emotionally charged production, presented by the Traverse and co-producers Raw Material in association with Regular Music.
As Bissett digs deeper, the play becomes a moving rites of passage that’s about fathers, mothers and daughters, and about how a young woman makes her way in the world and learns to be herself. In this sense, Bissett’s lust for life is a life-affirming inspiration that knows how to work a bigger crowd, and soars even more because of it. Believe the hype.
The Herald, April 10th 2019