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The Red Hourglass

The Arches, Glasgow
3 stars
To get over the things you fear, you first have to confront them. 
Whether novelist Alan Bissett is scared of spiders or not isn’t on 
record, but he certainly gets stuck in to the little blighters in this 
arachnid-friendly solo effort first performed by himself during the 
Edinburgh Festival Fringe. From the hoodie-sporting common or garden 
variety who comes on like some wannabe chancer straight out of an 
Irvine Welsh story, to the black-booted southern belle Black Widow with 
predatory intentions, Bissett’s sextet of comic thumbnail sketches are 
life studies akin to biology lab dissections with extra added amateur 
psychology thrown in.

Bissett’s subjects are being held captive under glass in a St Andrews 
research centre, where the female of the species rules the roost. The 
pecking order elsewhere is made clear by the presence of a swarthy 
Latino tarantula and the neurotic New Yorker who embodies the recluse 
spider.

As well observed as all this is in Sacha Kyle’s production, it remains 
entertainingly slight, never really getting beyond basic character 
study when full-on interaction is required. Even so, Bissett is 
unabashed in his commitment, all but winking at the audience in what is 
essentially a series of routines which are at times as camp as a 1970s 
drag act doing Animal Magic for grown-ups.

Only at the end does the revolutionary intent of Bissett’s tangled web 
become clear. The clip-board wielding wasp is deceptively ridiculous, 
and when the Black Widow works her wiles the laughter stops completely. 
When Bissett dons the white coat of the play’s sole human presence, the 
sting in the show's tail is deadly.

The Herald, November 16th 2012

ends

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