Theatre review: I was a Beautiful Day

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WHEN this short and sometimes beautiful play by Iain Finlay MacLeod opened in Stornoway in 2005, it looked like a powerful idea marred by a lack of dramatic focus; and five years on, it still looks much the same. Revived by London-based group Alabaster Productions – and playing at the Tron this week – I Was A Beautiful Day sets out to tell the story of Dan, played with feeling by Robert Willox, a man from a small Hebridean island now living, voluntarily, in a mental hospital on the mainland. He has spent several years in the British army, witnessing untold horrors in a desert war.

So when Anne, a young cartographer played with real delicacy by Kirsty Stuart, disturbs his fragile peace by asking him to help fill in the Gaelic placenames on a map of his home town, his reaction involves both fascination and fear.

The play's problem, though, is that this interaction – already more than complex enough – is hijacked, from the first scene, by the quite different drama of Lube, a fellow patient who, unlike Dan, is deeply disturbed, and bent on escape. Fiercely played by Martin McCormack, Lube is a powerful character; but his plight is so irrelevant to the delicate interaction between Dan and Anne that his presence all but destroys the play's rhythm. There's something here about Dan's process of healing, as it contrasts with Lube's profound sickness.

But as MacLeod's drama reaches its poetic climax, Lube fades completely from our minds; as if he had disappeared into another play, which he should have been inhabiting, all along.

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