Tag Archives: Orla O’Loughlin

What Girls Are Made Of

★★★★

Soho Theatre

What Girls Are Made Of

What Girls Are Made Of

Soho Theatre

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:
Angry Alan | ★★★★ | March 2019
Mouthpiece | ★★★ | April 2019
Tumulus | ★★★★ | April 2019
William Andrews: Willy | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Does My Bomb Look Big In This? | ★★★★ | May 2019
Hotter | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Citysong | ★★★★ | June 2019
The View Upstairs | ★★★ | July 2019
It All | ★★★ | August 2019
The Starship Osiris | ★★★★★ | August 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Mouthpiece
★★★

Soho Theatre

Mouthpiece

Mouthpiece

Soho Theatre

Reviewed – 4th April 2019

★★★

 

“It becomes too clever and self-aware and we disengage”

 

Above Edinburgh on the Salibury Crags, Declan, a talented, working class young artist pulls a body back as it tries to jump. This body belongs to Libby, a middle-aged, middle class fading playwright who is drunkenly considering the end. So two worlds meet. As Declan talks about the realities of his life, an abusive step-father, his love for his little sister, Libby begins to write for the first time in far too long. She needs his story, she needs his words, but at that point, the play asks, does telling someone’s story become exploiting it?

Lorn Macdonald as Declan is the heart and energy of the piece. He comes to life, quick and funny, surprising and vulnerable. His story is the one we are interested in hearing, and Macdonald is simply fire on stage. I cannot fault his performance. Unfortunately Neve McIntosh’s Libby feels comparatively unreal. This is not her fault, but an impossibility within the way the character is written. She is unlikeable throughout. Her suicide attempt, which opens the story, is so lightly commented upon in the rest of the play that it seems completely unbelievable and rather half-hearted, trivialising suicide, and contributing to a version of Libby that is self-absorbed and ingenuine. She is used as a device by the playwright (Kieran Hurley) to make comments about the world of theatre, meaning she struggles to emerge. He gives her an extended monologue about the state of playwriting, about theatres and audiences, that is so self-aware it makes us self-aware. That isn’t a character speaking, and it removes us from the world of the play with immediate effect. Even her trajectory isn’t believable. She jumps from suicidal to mentor to lover to exploiter with no apparent journeys in between.

Mouthpiece is interspersed by Libby directly addressing the audience, telling us what makes a good play, walking us through the necessary ingredients as they are created onstage, foreshadowing the way the narrative must inevitably go. Sometimes this works really well. But the plot gets lost in this, and the end in particular suffers as a result. It stops being about the characters, about their story. It becomes too clever and self-aware and we disengage.

The story that is at the heart of ‘Mouthpiece’ is a fascinating one of an unlikely relationship, of exploitation, class and culture, but it gets lost in a weary exercise of meta-theatricality, in an attempt to comment on playwriting, when the story is powerful enough to make this comment on its own. Let the story speak, and we will be powerless not to listen.

 

Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Roberto Ricciuti

 


Mouthpiece

Soho Theatre until 4th May

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Fabric | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Political History of Smack and Crack | ★★★★ | September 2018
Pickle Jar | ★★★★★ | October 2018
Cuckoo | ★★★ | November 2018
Chasing Bono | ★★★★ | December 2018
Laura | ★★★½ | December 2018
No Show | ★★★★ | January 2019
Garrett Millerick: Sunflower | ★★★★ | February 2019
Soft Animals | ★★★★ | February 2019
Angry Alan | ★★★★ | March 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com