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SPEAKER NIGHT, Alan Bissett – Wednesday 20th September 2023

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On Wednesday 20th September, Ayr Writers welcomed novelist, playwright and monologue performer extraordinaire, Alan Bissett to the club. It was a full house (we had to forage for more chairs). What a great evening! Through Alan’s brilliant performance, as well as his superb writing skills, his varied characters came to life before our eyes. From the ‘no nonsense’, mouthy, but ‘heart of gold’ Moira, through the apparent psycho on a bus, to a tank full of spiders (oh yes, spiders have character too!) we believed in them all.

After the break, Alan gave us useful tips on writing monologues. What’s the difference between a prose piece, written in the first person and a monologue? Performance – monologues are written to be performed. The voice is key. Dialect, rhythm, mannerisms, quirks and choice of words all help to build up the picture. Alan apologised in advance for Moira’s swearing and earthy language, but that’s how she speaks – it’s part of her character.

Who is the character talking to? It might be to themselves, to the audience, or to another character, who doesn’t speak. Other characters may come into the story, but we only see them through the eyes, or rather hear them, through the mouth of your star character. However, their interpretation of events may not be accurate. We have to read between the lines.

The story isn’t just a rambling tale, it must have an underlying theme, possibly a dark one.  In the ‘Moira’ extract, for example, domestic violence is hinted at. However, the humour in the rest of the piece doesn’t belittle this, but makes it more poignant. It also shows another layer to Moira’s character. Underneath the mouthy, confrontational persona, she shows real concern for her neighbour’s safety.

This is another key element to bear in mind. The audience’s first impressions may, and perhaps should, change as the monologue progresses and more of the character is gradually revealed.

The many pertinent questions for Alan, at the end of the evening, showed how deeply engaged the audience was. Thank you, Alan for a most enjoyable evening.

Maggie Bolton

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