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The Red Hourglass, The Arches, Glasgow

To get over the things you fear, you first have to confront them.

Whether novelist Alan Bissett is scared of spiders or not isn't on record, but he certainly gets stuck in to the little blighters in this arachnid-friendly solo effort first performed by himself during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. From the hoodie-sporting common or garden variety who comes on like some wannabe chancer straight out of an Irvine Welsh story, to the black-booted southern belle Black Widow with predatory intentions, Bissett's sextet of comic thumbnail sketches are life studies akin to biology lab dissections with extra amateur psychology thrown in.

Bissett's subjects are being held captive under glass in a St Andrews research centre, where the female of the species rules the roost. The pecking order elsewhere is made clear by the presence of a swarthy Latino tarantula and the neurotic New Yorker who embodies the recluse spider.

As well-observed as all this is in Sacha Kyle's production, it remains entertainingly slight, never really getting beyond basic character study when full-on interaction is required. Even so, Bissett is unabashed in his commitment, all but winking at the audience in what is essentially a series of routines which are at times as camp as a 1970s drag act doing Animal Magic for grown-ups.

Only at the end does the revolutionary intent of Bissett's tangled web become clear. The clipboard wielding wasp is deceptively ridiculous, and when the Black Widow works her wiles the laughter stops completely.

When Bissett dons the white coat of the play's sole human presence, the sting in the show's tail is deadly.

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