Edinburgh Fringe 2010
A completely fresh take on life in Falkirk as Alan Bissett’s latest alter ego sounds forth on dogs, life as a school cleaner, Shakespeare, politics and football in a hilarious hour of character comedy.
Moira Bell’s fay Falkirk y’ken. Ay, and there’s oanly wan “F” in “Falkirk, ken whit I mean. In fact, Moira is Falkirk’s hardest woman. Whether she’s sticking up for her wee dug, Pepe, as it runs feart from the local hard man’s Rottweiler, coming on to the young English teacher at the school where she works as a cleaner or just belting out the lyrics at the Scotia club’s Saturday night karaoke, this feisty lassie turns out to be simply great company, one big barrel of laughs.
Alan Bissett’s latest alter ego Moira takes us through a series of short stories. Moria defending her dog against a bullying fellow canine, Moira threatening to clipe on someone cheating on benefits, Moira the cleaner in the school passing opinion on all and sundry, Moira on a night out with that middle class English teacher and finally, in an uproarious conclusion to a thoroughly entertaining hour, we see Moira watching Scotland get humped at football (again) leading to a discourse on politics, religion and independence.
This is real, roar out loud humour. But if you are expecting Bissett to appear as Moira then you’re wide of the mark. Yet he creates such a superb image in your mind’s eye of this savvy street fighter that his physical appearance is completely irrelevant. Moira chain smokes, so he stands in that way that women do when they are smoking and gabbing to their best pal, in this case a fellow bairn called Babs. Hard man with Rottweiler is suitably imposing. Babs is appropriately quiet – good job really as with Moira you’ve no chance of getting a word in edgeways – and Charlie, the English teacher she ultimately seduces, is amusingly up himself.
There are a host of other minor characters along the way as well, each carefully thought out and precisely delineated through accent, body posture, eye and mouth movement and style of delivery. This includes, by the way, impressionable images of Moria’s lap dog and the aforementioned Rottweiler.
Delivery is pretty much pitch perfect, each monologue being closed with a short blackout, giving the audience a much needed breather and a chance to massage the ribs aching from all that laughing as well as Bissett the opportunity to change the setting, the pace and the subject without breaking the flow of the overall piece. And, yes, there’s plenty of strong language which was, to be fair, too much for a couple of audience members on the night I attended. But Moira is from Falkirk and these are just everyday words to her – at no point was it ever gratuitous and for the script not to have contained profanity would have detracted from its overall credibility.
This is a piece that is a completely fresh take on the issue of class and culture in Scotland. It’s also about the right to be happy with what you’ve got and that’s Moira to a tee. She has a nice wee home, a steady job and as long as she can have a wee bevvy and a bit of good weed at the weekend, she’s content. And what’s wrong with that.
The real joy of the Fringe comes not from finding what you want, but from finding what you didn’t know you wanted. I didn’t know I wanted to see this show, but I’m sure glad it found me.