Lessons from Mr Bisset: interview with Scots literary superstar

Alan Bissett bounds up to the National Library of Scotland, sparkly purple scarf around his neck, bright blue suitcase in hand. His easy-going amicability seems a long way from the character of Moira, the feisty working-class protagonist of his most well known piece for stage The Moira Monologues. “I wish I’d dressed more like a student”, he jokes, as he poses for a photo.

He explains with enthusiasm that he has just come from doing a talk at a school in Leith and is about to head off on tour. This week sees the final performances of his most recent play The Red Hourglass in Glasgow, which premiered this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe to widespread critical acclaim. The hour-long show, a series of erotic arachnid monologues, is performed entirely by the author who takes on the parts of both male and female spiders.

It’s fairly unusual for a writer to have such a hand in acting out his work, and Bissett posits that much of this desire to act as well as write comes from his teaching experience: “Teaching is an elaborate acting job. You have maybe thirty kids in front of you…you have to learn how to play them; you have to make them laugh, discipline them, inspire them, and the only way you can do that is by being a performer. I think that’s how I ended up doing it.” Having studied English and Education at the University of Stirling, Bissett undertook a short spell as a secondary school teacher before returning to university to study for a PhD. “I enjoyed it,” he explains, “but realised I would never be a writer if I stayed a secondary school teacher.”…Read More

Photo Credit: Allan MacDonald/ The Journal