In 1992, Cora Bissett was a teenager nearing the end of her school years in a small Scottish town. From a newspaper ad, to joining the band Darlingheart as vocalist, to a recording contract, this teen was on the way to musical stardom. She presents a vague summary of the 25 years since her big break in What Girls Are Made Of.
Over the course of the 90 minutes, Bissett performed various songs (or parts thereof) on the Famous Spiegeltent’s stage with a band. She delivered a monologue taking in some highs and lows, whilst band members played characters such as her family and record company executives as necessary.
It is unfortunate that what this girl is made of doesn’t seem to include much interest in collaboration. Bissett wrote the work, and it is quickly apparent that it lacks the depth you would expect from a capable theatre-maker, or of a Melbourne Festival.
Much of the storytelling we could describe as “this happened, and then this happened”. The breezy skipping across tales might suit the anecdotes of little consequence, but it makes more serious adversities almost trivial inconveniences of no lasting impact.
Bissett glanced across issues that could have been profitably explored, say a hint of her experience with domestic violence, or how she earned a living when her artistic choices were unpalatable to her record company. There seems to be a number of missed opportunities to show us the grit required of a performer when the glitter fades.
The musicians were solid in presenting snippets of bands like Radiohead and Blur which Darlingheart supported early on in their contract. But this is borrowed class, as is the ambience of the Spiegeltent venue. Thinking about performances from 1927 and Branch Nebula at this MIAF, I suspect that What Girls Are Made Of will be too much like mainstream pop for those festival audiences of more adventurous tastes.
What Girls Are Made Of
The Famous Spiegeltent – Arts Centre Melbourne Forecourt, St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Saturday 5 October 2019 – 8:30pm
Season continues to 13 October 2019
Information and Bookings: www.festival.melbourne
Image: What Girls Are Made Of – photo by Mihaela Bodlovic
Review: Jason Whyte