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REVIEW - What Girls Are Made Of, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023

Updated: May 10


Cora Bissett, What Girls Are Made Of, Darlingheart, Assembly, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023

"It’s the early 90s. Grunge has gone global, indie kids are inheriting the earth, and a schoolgirl from Glenrothes is catapulted to a rock star lifestyle as the singer in a hot new indie band.

Touring with Radiohead, partying with Blur, she was living the dream. Until she wasn’t. Based on her meticulously detailed teenage diaries, this is the true story of Cora Bissett’s rollercoaster journey from the girl she was to the woman she wanted to be."

In a co-production with Raw Material Arts and Traverse Theatre Company, Cora Bissett's 'What Girls Are Made Of' is a fascinating look at the music industry of the 1990s. It has the soundtrack of my dreams, featuring hits from Nirvana, Blur and Radiohead, to name but a few.

The stage set is reminiscent of a music concert, with simple but effective lighting behind a full drumkit, speakers and mics. But the show begins quietly, with Cora sitting onstage alone, gently introducing the audience to her childhood home, her diaries and her memories. I was taken aback by her lovely clear diction, her assured performance, her stage presence... Yes, I was captivated before she had sung a single note!

Cora is soon accompanied on stage by a live band of three actor/musicians. Each of them play instruments and sing in the band, but they also take on numerous other roles from music industry professionals to family members. I was particularly impressed by Simon Donaldson who nailed every single character he played, showcasing his extraordinary range as well making for a very believable rock star.

Cora Bissett, What Girls Are Made Of, Darlingheart, Assembly, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023. Photo credit: MIhaela Bodlovic

Over the next 90 minutes we follow Cora on an eye-opening journey, from leaving school in small town Scotland, to joining a band and then touring. There are exciting times, sad times, funny anecdotes and tough lessons aplenty.

Running through it all - music. Great music! Performed superbly.

Sadly, some of the earlier tracks are just a taster and I found myself wanting more. It was so good! I was enjoying myself and then - the band would stop. Boo! I understand, I do; This is NOT a rock concert, it's theatre, but I do hope this show is expanded to a full-blown, 2 hour+ theatre show with interval so that we can enjoy even more of the fantastic soundtrack.

When the band and Cora do perform full tracks they are, without exception, brilliant. Their version of Blur's 'This is a Low' is phenomenal. And Cora's voice on Nirvana's 'In Bloom' actually brought tears to my eyes. I was feeling very nostalgic by that point anyway, but it is a gorgeous cover, and a fitting tribute to a band and a song that mean so much to so many.

Between songs, Cora gives a very honest account of the challenges she has faced. She touches on some sensitive subjects and personal matters, one or two of which resonated with me so much they had me in tears (again).

Watching and listening to Cora Bissett perform, I find it frankly astonishing that she isn't a worldwide superstar. Her voice, her talent, are extraordinary. What were these A&R guys doing!!?

Well, their loss is our gain. In 'What Girls Are Made of' Cora not only shares her story but her heart with us. She leaves it all on the stage and it's beautiful.


⚠️ Strobe light warning! I had to shut my eyes twice, but it's only for maybe 30 second each time

Cora Bissett, What Girls Are Made Of, Darlingheart, Assembly, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023. Photo credit: MIhaela Bodlovic

What Girls Are Made of CAST

Cora Bissett

Cathryn Archer

Simon Donaldson

Harry Ward


Cora Bissett Writer

Orla O’Loughlin Director

Ana Inés Jabares-Pita Designer

Lizzie Powell Lighting Designer

Garry Boyle Sound Designer

MJ McCarthy Musical Arrangements

Eve Nicol Associate Director

📸 Production photos: MIhaela Bodlovic


- Running time 85mins

- Suitable for ages 12+

- Features songs by Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Blur, Patti Smith, Sultans of Ping and Darlingheart.

When and Where?

Venue: Assembly Rooms Music Hall

Time: 13:00

Dates: 4-27 August (except 9/14/21 Aug)

Tickets: £27.50/£25.50

Bookings: 0131 623 3030 or Assembly box offices at Assembly Hall and Assembly Roxy, Assembly George Square, Assembly Checkpoint, Assembly @ Dance Base and Assembly Rooms.

Cora Bissett, What Girls Are Made Of, Darlingheart, Assembly, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023

What Girls Are Made Of - review. Cora Bissett, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023

🎟️ Disclosure: I am an Edinburgh Festival Fringe accredited media reviewer and as such I receive complimentary press tickets in exchange for my honest reviews. My reviews and star ratings are always my honest opinions.

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Lisa in the theatre, Scottish theatre blog, reviews, theatre


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