Time has not withered Moira Bell, Alan Bissett’s 2009 tribute to the hard-working, hard-playing, straight-talking working class women of Scotland, and Falkirk in particular. In 2017, she’s still arguing with her neighbours (mostly about their noisy sex lives), giving people who disrespect her a piece of her mind, and knocking down any middle class pretentiousness with a single blow. And, as per usual, she’s still sharing everything with her best pal, Babs.
Welcome back, Moira. We missed you
But, there have been changes during the last eight years, especially for audience members who were lucky enough to see The Moira Monologues. Moira’s much loved Pepe has long ascended to Dog Heaven, the boys have moved on, and it’s eight years since ‘her’ Billy Lamont left her for another woman. Thanks to her eldest son, she’s also now grandmother to little Matthew, albeit a ‘Nan’ who still thinks she’s hot, and looking out for a man. But, as the second ‘episode’ of this new show adequately proves, the brave new world of online dating isn’t really for our Moira.
As with The Moira Monologues, this new show is performed by Bissett alone with no attempt to drag it up like some Scottish answer to Mrs Brown’s Boys. Nevertheless, Moira is undeniably in the room, with Bissett’s performance honed and subtly guided here by director Sacha Kyle. Story changes are indicated by no more than a brief dip in the lights, and a change of location. Bissett even slips easily into other supporting characters—mostly the poor men Moira runs into—but never loses his focus. It’ll still be a strange day when we eventually see a woman play her.
Much of Bissett’s work—especially his novels—is about men, but Moira clearly offers him a different way to talk about the world. Through her eyes he despairs, not just at town-centres filled with Pound-shops, bookies and hairdressers, but also stifled working class ambition—Moira ‘doesn’t see the point’ of Glasgow, let alone much of Scotland. Just never, ever take the piss, or you’ll be in trouble. Welcome back, Moira. We missed you.