Alan Bissett: The Red Hourglass Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Alan Bissett
Sacha Kyle (director and producer), David Bryce (photo image)
Alan Bissett
Running time

It is a brave thing to undertake a one-man show. It is even braver to undertake one where five out of the six characters you’re playing are not even human. Alan Bissett’s latest work following his success in the 2010 Fringe with his ‘one-woman show’ The Moira Monologues does just that.

In the rather incongruous venue of the National Library of Scotland, Bissett sits black-clad, crouched and hooded on a black-draped high seat in front of a pale red screen creating an atmosphere of menace aided by a discreet rattly noise in the background.

He morphs into a range of arachnids, changing character sartorially by stripping down from being the hooded recluse, to the tee-shirted Brooklyn family ‘man’, to the vested machismo-laden Venezuelan Tarantula (‘the Goliath of arachnids’), to the drawling, high heeled, sly and seductive eponymous Red Hourglass.

The terrifyingly parasitical spider-hawk-wasp is ultimately portrayed in a nipped waist jaiket as a brilliant caricature of a group therapy leader full of clichéd speech: a terrifically observed Scots version of Little Britain’s Marjory Dawes. He switches gender and breed, taking each creature brilliantly through a range of convincing accents from deep south Glasgow to Deep South USA; from Camelon to Cambridge with great skill.

In this unique, intelligent, funny and inventive piece of adult theatre, Bisset anthropomorphises the beasties making the experimental laboratory where they live take on the vibe of a prison, full of edgy gallus street talk. Bisset uses Scots with natural assuredness and has a keen ear for accents and a gift of mimicking a range of them with skill. Telling the tale of Robert the Bruce from the spider’s point of view puts a clever, comic twist in the weel kent tale.

Bisset has become a spiderman (and woman) that may not swing from high buildings with his web but who spins a rare tale and knocks Peter Parker in to a wee tin hat. The nursery song Incy Wincy Spider will never sound the same again! Not suitable for arachnophobes.

Alan Bissett is Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Scottish Writer of the Year and The Red Hourglass has been developed with the support of the National Theatre of Scotland as part of their Reveal season, a showcase for new work by up and coming artists.

Show Times: 15-16 August and 18-25 August, 7:00pm

Ticket Prices: £12/£10