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Alan Bissett

Alan Bissett – The Red Hourglass HAC theatre Friday 16th November

Alan Bissett: The Red Hourglass

The Red Hourglass is a play written and performed by Falkirk author Alan Bissett. The HAC was the venue for the last performance of a tour.

If you were easily freaked out by theatre performance this would not be for you as you have to enter your seat under red lights while Alan Bissett sits atop a chair back leaning forward with his hoodie obscuring his face. Once everyone is seated he slips from his perch and takes on the persona of a Scottish house spider at a facility at St Andrew’s university. He tells the history of spiders with great humour and Scottishness. This character  segues into others – three male, two female, and the transformations are successfully created with a pair of boots here and a furry jacket there. Of course, it is all allegorical with political overtones where a spider has a voice that actually represents something untoward about modern society.

In the final scene we are left staring at a screen with an escaped spider coming towards us. I’m glad it wasn’t the big brute that scares our soldiers in Afghanistan….

It was very clever, very Scottish and over all too soon.



Adam Spark. Eighteen going on eight-and-a-half. Fast-food worker. Queen fan. Last in the queue for luck. On waking from an accident in which he saves a child, he has the distinct impression that all is far from right. What are these curious lights that seem to surround people? Why are animals and machines trying to speak to him? And can he really control time? Is it just his imagination, or has Adam Spark been chosen to become Scotland’s first, and only, superhero? This, however, is the least of his problems.

I was worried when I started to read a book where the main character is a person with disabilities. Worried that he would be an object of fun, worried that he would be portrayed negatively etc but the above blurb made me read on.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there is definitely comedy mostly coming from our understanding of Adam Spark’s misunderstanding of what is going on but initially at least Adam is a master of the one liner, an unconscious wit. Increasingly it appears that he has some unusual power to read people and situations as a result of an accident and all the way through I thought there would be a “brain tumour” making its entrance in the final chapters.

Sadly, Adam the unreliable narrator becomes increasingly violent in thought and deed and although it is mostly directed at the love interest of his sister there are moments of intolerable cruelty towards his girlfriend that make the closing pages quite tragic.

Adam thinks that he is a superhero but in the end the real hero is Jude who manages not only to break away, fall in love, lose weight, have a pristine flat and gain a first at uni but also becomes a social worker helping families like hers was when she was growing up.

Adam rescues a couple of children in a hapless fashion and the attempted rescue of the young girl seems innocent enough, and yet, and yet it failed to convince me that he was as innocent as he claimed.

The text is written in compound words which when we separate them are read the way someone from Falkirk would talk if they let words run into one another. The spelling is of course wrong as a result but there are passages which don’t ring quite true where he is quoting something he has heard someone else say but they are too verbatim and precise for someone who has spoken the way he has throughout the rest of the novel, especially when we consider that the recall required for this would have meant he was able to do significantly better in life than he had up to that point.

Themes running through the book are loneliness, selfishness and duty and all characters have  flaws.

However, this novel is well worth the read and don’t let the writing style or dialect put you off.

Support your local prof. Read the book!

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