Alan Bissett: The Red Hourglass, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh


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The Independent Culture

Here's a Spider-Man reboot with a difference. Over the course of a hypnotic hour, Scottish Writer of the Year Alan Bissett weaves together a series of compelling, odd little monologues, performed in character as various species of spider.

There's the common house spider, a Glaswegian scamp, skulking in a hoodie with a giant chip on his shoulder (or the spider equivalent thereof); the fiery Venezuelan Tarantula ("the spider you think about when you think of a spider") who harbours ideas of revolution; and, my favourite, the neurotic Woody Allen-style recluse spider.

The climax comes with the appearance of the Black Widow (from whose deadly red stomach the show draws its title), a drawling femme fatale in kneehigh boots, who reminds us that the female of the species really is more deadly than the male.

Bissett has real presence as a performer; his writing glitters with unusual erudition and deft wit. Here he has skilfully marshalled his research into something at once informative, touching and, well, rather human. It's not quite spiders have feelings too but a final segment which posits a time when arachnids will rule the earth is particularly rich, drawing genetic engineering, riots and exploitation into its web. The world's current set of manmade problems are nothing, it suggests, when compared with nature on the hunt for revenge.

Who knew it could be so enjoyable to spend an evening trapped in a room with a gang of man-sized spiders? A real Fringe gem.

To 25 August (0131 226 0000)