On the Couch with Cora Bissett

WGAMO Cora Bissett - photo by Mihaela BodlovicWho is Cora Bissett?
Cora Bissett is an actor/ writer/ director from Scotland. She started out in a band at 17, went through some pretty hairy experiences before then studying drama in Glasgow. She worked for 14 years in theatre, film and TV before deciding to start up her own theatre company and direct her own work. She never looked back. Her focus has been creating work which places real stories with a socio-political angle centre stage, creating kick ass roles for women, and holding a spotlight to complex stories of injustice.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I wish I’d started directing earlier on in life. I love working as an actor but it can be a very demoralising and passive role. You are always waiting to be chosen. With directing, and starting my own company, it creates autonomy and more opportunity to really create the work you want to make in the world.

Who inspires you and why?
Oh so many people, in theatre, in music, in film, in life. Patti Smith, Maya Angelou, Nina Simone, activists who dedicate their entire lives to trying to make very real tangible shifts in our whole systems of working. Especially the young heroes and heroines who are standing up and saying NO, this is not the world we accept. Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who demanded girls have the same rights to education as boys, and took a bullet to the head for it, yet it only made her speak louder. That kind of bravery, that devotion, that belief that change can in fact happen inspires me greatly.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I try to make a difference by the work I do. My skills lie in storytelling so I choose my stories carefully, and always try to share a story which can change or broaden peoples perceptions and be open to ideas of inclusivity. I think the rising tides of right wing attitudes, the state induced fueling of fear of immigrants, and the blaming of so many issues on refugees across the world is at critical stages right now. In Glasgow there is a beautiful thing going on where you can host a dinner in your home and share that table with new migrants in your area. It’s a way for people to cook together, eat together and understand who each other are. I want to do that when I get home, and let my daughter be part of that too.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I am blessed to travel so far and wide with my work, that when we holiday, my favourite place actually is to go to my sisters lovely house outside Bournemouth in the UK. It’s so warm and close to the beach. My little girl adores seeing her big cousins, they play water fights and trampolining all day, we chill out with a BBQ and I get to see my family. It’s a true holiday, and the place my little girl is happiest.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I live in the South Side of Glasgow and love it… I would take friends around any of the big green parks there – Queen’s Park, Pollock Park – head to lunch at any of the new eateries on  Pollockshaws Road. ‘GNom’ is a current favourite, drop into the museum of modern art, catch a gig in the open air at Kelvingrove Bandstand and head back for cocktails at the Rum Shack. I’d like them to see that Glasgow is a vibrant, multicultural, funky, arty, chilled out and exciting city. It is not the city which is so often painted as violent and only full of alcoholism and knife crime.

What are you currently reading?
A book about Victor Jara – the Chilean folk singer / activist.

What are you currently listening to?
Kathryn Joseph’s new a album: From when I wake the want is. She’s a brilliant Scottish artist, who really only gained recognition 41 – and is soaring right now. She moves me like no one else I can think of right now!

Happiness is?
Hanging out with my daughter and partner in the park, watching her climb trees, speed down a hill on her scooter, testing her climbing limits, and generally laugh, play, make pals and discover herself. Seeing her toothy wee grin as she laughs is my biggest joy.

What does the future hold for you?
It’s not slowing down time soon! When I get home from this tour, I’m filming a documentary about swearing and the Scots joyous overuse of swear words! Then I head to Canada to redirect my stage version of Emma Donoghue’s stunning novel, Room. Then I work on a new show about Scottish workers solidarity with Chile during the 1974 coup. There has been very strong film interest in WGAMO (What Girls Are Made Of) – so I’m hoping to develop the screenplay next year… And working on an new blackly funny musical for the National Theatre of Scotland.

Cora stars in What Girls Are Made Of at the Famous Spiegeltent as part of the 2019 Melbourne International Arts Festival until 13 October. For more information, visit: www.festival.melbourne for details.

Image: Cora Bissett stars in What Girls Are Made Of – photo by Mihaela Bodlovic