Cora Bissett on her upcoming play What Girls Are Made Of

Scottish-Born Cora is a writer, director, actor and singer/songwriter.

She is passionate about creating collaborative cross-form work, and loves to seek out the ‘real life’ stories that need to be told. Since 2014, she has been an Associate Director with the National Theatre of Scotland. Her production Roadkill won her an Olivier award for Outstanding Production in an Affiliate Theatre. Other recent work includes political musical Glasgow Girls (co-created with David Grieg), and Jumpy. Her first play, What Girls Are Made Of, premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 2018, and is now heading down under as part of Melbourne International Arts Festival next month.

What Girls Are Made Of follows Cora’s life through the music industry, and the shift she underwent after becoming a mother. Full of personal anecdotes, the play is an emotional journey from beginning to end.

Where did your love of music begin?

Probably at home, there was always music with the family at Christmas time… everyone would muck in… old Irish folk tunes, my mum playing country… Then moving into my own tastes around 13/14 years old. I had big sisters who had very differing styles which I would listen to through bedroom walls. Then, I found indie rock around 15 and that made a huge impact on me, as did discovering Patti Smith.

Tell me a bit about your road to fame!

I answered the quintessential ‘band seeks singer’ ad in the local paper, got in, made a demo, sent it to local radio station, dodgy manager picks us, says he thinks we could get a big deal, brings a barrage of record companies to see us. Few months later, BAM, five album deal signed (by my parents!) and out on the road supporting Radiohead and Blur (we didn’t really make the famous part however, it all ended too quickly!).

What is your favourite song to perform and why?

Probably the last song of the show, and it answers the question “what are girls made of?” I imagine my daughter asking me that whilst she is still in the womb, and I imagine what I will tell her, and I re-trace every single thing in my life, which I mention in the show. It’s all the things that have made me, built me, influenced me, all the good the bad and the painful, because that is what makes us. It’s hugely exhilarating to perform, it just builds and builds into this joyous, defiant crescendo and I can see the way it affects people, people smiling with tears running down their cheeks.

Cora performing What Girls Are Made in Edinburgh | Photo by Sid Scott

Besides literally having kids, what was the biggest way motherhood changed you?

It let me experience complete and utter unconditional love. The way you love your child is so immense, so uncompromising, in a breath you would lay down your life for them, no question, in a very real way. To feel that experience of selflessness is a very powerful and liberating in some strange way. It has also meant I can’t hold my drink anymore, after 3 years of very little sleep I keel over after two wines or fall asleep in a corner. I used to be rock and roll!

What can audiences expect from What Girls Are Made Of?

A rollercoaster of emotion. It takes you on this rocket paced trip through the rise of the band, it’s fast paced and funny and exhilarating. It is interspersed with full on indie rock songs from myself and the band, who are awesome musicians and actors who play every other character in the story. It charts the whole ascent of the band, the rollicking time we had, and the very deep low we hit. But it then evolves into a play about more than that, about digging yourself out of the depths, and learning to deal with all the other things life throws at you. The 5000 people we have played to generally laugh loudly, cry quietly, and smile hugely by the end. We go on a pretty big trip together.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?

I don’t think I would have done anything differently….I think I could only do what I could with the experience and tools I had. But I would say, “y’know that gut instinct you had about the dodgy manager in the white jeans, yeah listen to that.” I would say chill out, don’t worry about what anyone thinks of you, don’t worry about what’s happening next, this moment is incredible, just be in it.


What Girls Are Made Of | October 3rd – 13th

For tickets and more information, please visit the MIAF Website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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