Alan Bissett: The Red Hourglass

Alan Bissett: The Red Hourglass
3 stars ***
National Library of Scotland (Venue 147)

ON A SMALL stage at the National Library of Scotland, a man in a hoodie is crouched on stage, pretending to be a spider. The man is novelist, dramatist and short-story-writer Alan Bissett, one of Scotland’s brightest literary stars. And the show is The Red Hourglass, in which, over a swift and entertaining hour, Bissett morphs from an ordinary Scottish working-class house spider into a home-loving Booklyn recluse spider, a fierce, flamenco-influenced tarantula, a ferociously passive-aggressive management wasp, a lethal black widow, and finally the arrogant St. Andrews scientist who keeps all the spiders in a giant glass jar, but suffers a lethal come-uppance.

As fans of his great Moira Monologues will know, Bissett is a terrific performer, funny, flexible, and capable of terrifying high-speed transitions from baby-faced comedy to the most steely macho thuggery. In this show, though, it’s difficult to feel that much is being said, beyond the obvious post-human riff about humanity getting above itself, and underestimating the strength and resilience of the spider kingdom. And in that sense, the title says it all; this is a show which is partly about The Red Hourglass, but just as much about Alan Bissett, his wit, his sharp political intelligence, and his formidable ability to entertain a growing army of fans.

Joyce McMillan
Until 25 August
p. 254


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