Edinburgh Fringe 2016
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.
Alan Bissett’s alter ego Moira first appeared at the fringe back in 2010. Six years on, is she still true to her roots? Or is she trying to climb the greasy social poll with a view to one day shopping in Waitrose? Naah, she cannae even spell Waitrose, never mind having to go abroad to Edinburgh to find it. Moira Bell’s fay Falkirk y’ken. Ay, and there’s oanly wan “F” in “Falkirk, ken whit I mean.
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, going on a date to The Taming of The Shrew with 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 lives life in the fast lane.
And we get a glimpse into her eclectic lifestyle as Bissett takes us through a series of short stories. Moria defending her dog against a bullying fellow canine, Moira threatening to clipe on a benefits cheat, Moira the cleaner in the school passing opinion on all and sundry, Moira and her views on Shakespeare following that night out with the 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 and a few others subjects normally thought of as taboo at middle class supper tables.
This is a very cleverly crafted piece of theatre, more akin to full blown character comedy than plain storytelling. Bissett creates a superb image of each of the multiple characters (and caricatures); Moira, chain smoking as she gabs to her pall Babs; the hard man with the Rottweiler; Charlie, her English teacher date (amusingly up himself), Julie, the stuck up drama teacher queen and many, many more.
Each character, major or minor has been carefully thought out and is quite exquisitely delineated through accent, body posture, eye 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 Bissett the chance 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 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.
As a piece of theatre with a refreshing take on the Scottish psyche and its continuing obsession with the social pecking order, there aren’t many finer examples around. And yet it’s also about the right to be happy with what you’ve got. 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.