What Girls Are Made Of
Reviewed – 12th September 2019
“the story itself is nostalgic and heart-warming with a great soundtrack to boot”
Everyone has a fantasy of winning big; having your absolute pie-in-the-sky, never-in-a-million-years dream come true. But what happens after it does? On discovering the fearsome coolness of Patti Smith, young Cora decides she absolutely needs to sing in a band. So, she finds an ad in the local paper and does just that, and everything just seems to fall in to place. Ten gigs in and they’re already playing for all the biggest record label reps, and in no time they’re signed to Phonogram, on tour with the likes of Radiohead and Blur, trashing hotels and playing to 2,000-strong audiences. But after one bad review in NME, everything turns sour and Cora is left trying to work out what happens next.
Based on the actual events of Cora Bissett’s teenage years and directed by Orla O’Loughlin, What Girls Are Made Of charts the epic highs and crushing lows of quick fame, and the unforgiving nature of the industry, as well as the less romantic heartaches of life in general. The main message seems to be that few people’s lives glide along on an ever-ascending trajectory, and that a successful and full life is not defined by a lack of failure. This message is muddied in the ending’s slightly disappointing emphasis on the importance of being a mother, and passing the lessons down to the next generation, as though the rest of the story were only validated by her daughter’s existence. That being said it’s hard to argue with the plot seeing as it’s based on Bissett’s life – she did in fact want to be a mother, and she did succeed in doing so.
The design (Ana Inés Jabares-Pita) is a classic gig theatre set-up, and Bissett is joined on stage by her fellow band members, Simon Donaldson, Emma Smith and Harry Ward who also aid in her story, playing the parts of concerned parents, coked-up record label heads, shifty managers, and urm… Radiohead. The quality of musicianship is excellent, and the soundtrack takes us back to the rose-tinted memory of a teenager’s 90s – the Pixies, Nirvana, PJ Harvey, and of course Patti Smith.
Bissett is an endearing and engaging story teller and though there might have been a little more grit in a true tale of rock-and-roll, the story itself is nostalgic and heart-warming with a great soundtrack to boot.
Reviewed by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Mihaela Bodlovic
What Girls Are Made Of
Soho Theatre until 28th September
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: