The Traverse One stage looks more ready for a gig than a piece of theatre, but while music undoubtedly runs through the heart of Cora Bissett's latest, most autobiographical work, this is equally a heartfelt examination of parent-child relationships, presented with passion, tenderness and the fuck-you attitude of rock 'n' roll at its best. It's both specific in its details of the 1990s music scene, and universal in its recollections of growing up.
The core story here is really about mums, dads and their daughters.
To explain: clearing out the old family home in Glenrothes, Bissett – now an award-winning mainstay of Scottish theatre, as writer, director and actor – uncovered both her teenage diaries and the magazine and newspaper clippings that her late father had preserved. For Bissett's earliest professional performances, aged 17, were as lead singer of indie band Darlingheart. Signed to one of the big labels, they supported "posh" Radiohead and "Mockney" Blur. There was a buzz around Darlingheart; and, then, one failed album later, there wasn't. Screwed over by their manager, facing a massive tax bill with no money, the dream was over.
Or, rather, it was just her first attempt, as following an attempted solo music career, aborted before it even began, she moved to London looking for success in life, music and love. Under the guidance of the Traverse’s departing artistic director Orla O’Loughlin, Bissett has now condensed all her teenage experiences into a piece of theatre where, sharply dressed in black jeans and t-shirt, she's once again the lead singer. The rest of the band – actors Simon Donaldson and Grant O'Rourke, with the percussive brilliance of musician Susan Bear – take on all the other roles, with alacrity and emotional commitment.
The days of an NME review deciding a band's fate are long gone, of course, but there’s much here still relevant about the way the music industry and media can chew up and spit out young, fragile youth without a care. Yet that’s just details; the core story here is really about mums, dads and their daughters. That said, don't be in too much of a hurry to leave—you’ll miss seeing the Darlingheart video!