A dazzling, unique horror-comedy comes from Alan Bissett, the Fringe First-winning creator of The Moira Monologues, with The Red Hourglass. Here he plays five characters – three male, two female, none of them human – locked up together in a mysterious research facility. Back at the Fringe this year in the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Alan spoke with The Fountain about his arachnophobia and suggested tips for first time performers.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
It’s always exciting! When you get a good Fringe run going and a bit of momentum, and audiences walking away happy, it’s the best thing in the world and you don’t want it to end. And I first did The Red Hourglass at the Fringe in 2012, so I know it works and there won’t be that nervousness of trying out something completely new.
TF: The Red Hourglass certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise?
I play four different species of spider – a house spider, a recluse, a tarantula and a black widow – and a wasp, who are all locked up together in a glass tank in a research facility and who each have their own monologue. Gradually the audience discover the reason why the spiders are in the facility, and it turns out to be a dark one. But there’s plenty of comedy to be found along the way in seeing the world from a spider’s point of view
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
Well I’m quite the arachnophobe, so it’s way for me to deal with my own fears while exploring social fears in general. It’s way for me to confront spiders without having to a course of aversion therapy in which someone sits a tarantula on my hand! In terms of literary influences, obviously things like Animal Farm and Watership Down come to mind, stories about animals which are actually critiques of human society. .
TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, having been before are there any tips or musts you would offer to first-time performers?
Yes, I’d say don’t bother spending time and money giving out flyers, when the amount of people they will attract to your show is – in my experience – negligible. Posters, press and social media are much more effective. Use that flyering time instead to a) Rest and b) See other people’s shows. c) Meet other performers and make good relationships. That said, I’ve got two kids now, so I don’t do any of those things anymore. When I’m not performing I’m changing nappies.
TF: Have you been to the Fringe before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh?
Yes, I usually go and see everything at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, my regular Fringe venue, as their programme is so varied and exciting. This year, I’m most looking forward to This Script by Jenny Lindsay, one of Scotland’s most brilliant writer-performers, and The Loud Poets, who bring so much youthful energy and enthusiasm to everything they do.
TF: And what are your future plans beyond The Red Hourglass?
I’m still touring my ‘one woman show’ The Moira Monologues around Scotland, as audiences just keep turning up for it, and I’m in the process of adapting Alastair McIntosh’s book Soil and Soul for the stage. I’ve never adapted someone else’s work before so it’s a real challenge not to make a total arse of it and offend them. I know how raging I’d be if someone did that to one of my books.
You can see The Red Hourglass at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, The Netherbow Theatre from 1st – 14th August at 18:00. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com