Alan Bissett tackles arachnophobia in new play The Red Hourglass

This article is from 2012

Alan Bissett tackles arachnophobia in new play The Red Hourglass

Photo: David Bryce

The author and playwright's latest work uses spiders to dissect the nature of fear

‘I’ve always been arachnophobic, it’s something that goes quite deep into my childhood,’ says Glenfiddich Scottish Writer of the Year Alan Bissett. ‘’I’ve always been fascinated by spiders as well.’

This fear and fascination has led the author and actor to create The Red Hourglass, a theatre show (supported by the National Theatre of Scotland) in which he performs the roles of no fewer than six spiders. 'I can have my cake and it,’ he says. ‘I can have a show that explores the world of a spider, and also has something to say about society.

‘People have phobias about spiders, so you can use them to discuss the way that fear is socially constructed, and the way that we marginalise certain social groups.’

The six anthropomorphised characters have accents ranging from Venezuela, to the United States and Scotland. This is, the writer comments, a matter of both ‘variety and authenticity’. A variety of accents keeps the piece interesting, both for him as a performer and, he hopes, for the audience. However, it’s also important to him that the accents reflect the origins of the creature concerned.

The tarantula, for instance, comes from temperate climates. So, Bissett has opted to place his in Venezuela, giving him a colourful series of political possibilities. ‘With the whole Hugo Chavez socialist revolution there, you can bring in that subject matter as well.’’

And what of the title, The Red Hourglass? ‘One of my favourite books is The Red Hourglass by Gordon Grice,’ he explains. ’In that he writes about the hourglass figure of the black widow spider, and how its warning signal is for its body to turn red.’

National Library of Scotland, 226 0000, 15–25 Aug (not 17), 7pm, £12 (£10).

Alan Bissett: The Red Hourglass

A one-man show written and performed by Alan Bissett, who plays five different parts in a witty and erotic performance fusing theatre and storytelling.

Ciaran O'Driscoll and Alan Bissett

The launch of Ciaran O'Driscoll's new novel, A Year's Midnight, and as a bonus Alan Bisset performs an extract of his new play, The Red Hourglass. Part of Edinburgh Book Fringe.

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