So, what are girls made of? Not sugar and spice and all things nice, anyway. They are made of sterner stuff, if Cora Bissett is anything to go by. Written by her, about her, and starring her, this is a very unusual, and indeed a brilliant, show. The studio theatre in London’s not-so-seedy Soho was full to capacity last night, and the audience loved it, even if they may not have understood all of the Broad Scots expressions (along with very understandable expletives) that pepper the dialogue.
The stage is very simply furnished, with not much more than microphones, two guitars, keyboards and a drum kit. The three musicians – Simon Donaldson, Emma Smith and Harry Ward – not only produce a wonderful range of sounds, from punk to ballads, but also play not just the members of Cora’s own band, but all the other multifarious characters who make their appearance in the course of Cora’s story. Talk about Dead Ringers! Fans of Britpop will appreciate their expert imitation of the music and mannerisms of Blur and Radiohead.
Cora’s story takes her from schooldays in Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy (not places familiar to hip metropolitans – they’re in Fife, after all) to being the vocalist in an “indie” band, getting a recording contract, indulging in rock-and-roll excess, nearly making it big time, getting ripped off, and crashing down to earth with huge debts. It’s like a picaresque novel, hilarious and rude, but with moments of tenderness. So in some ways, a sentimental journey for Cora. The unusual staging, in which the actor-musicians mostly stick to their places as a musical group while voicing the lines of the other characters they play, works remarkably well, and the sound effects are great. The unfamiliar accents are no barrier to enjoyment, as the audience demonstrated last night by rising to their feet to give a standing ovation.
The show is actually on a world tour, having wowed audiences in Brazil and the USA. If you’re in London, do try and catch it before it moves on to Australia next month.