Theatre review: In an Alien Landscape, Beacon Arts Centre Greenock

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THE new Beacon Arts Centre at Greenock – soaring above the Clyde waterfront in a glow of soft white light – staged its first show, after dazzling the audience with a tour of its 500-seat main theatre.

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And if the show we saw, in the smaller studio, was a slightly more tentative affair, it nonetheless offered a rich and deeply creative start to the life of a major new building in Scotland’s cultural landscape.

Liverpool playwright Danny Start’s boldly poetic new play – staged by the Glasgow-based Birds Of Paradise company – explores the altered mind of its hero, Albie, a former streetfighter and drug user turned builder and family man, whose life changes drastically when he suffers a severe cerebral haemorrhage. Based on a true-life story, the play takes a while to reach the crux of the narrative, which comes with the “new” Albie’s realisation that all he wants to do is paint; there is no going back, particularly to his marriage to the lovely Suze.

Start’s storytelling style is sometimes obscure and a touch pretentious, as he shifts between past and present in a tangled web of flashbacks.

With the help of a superb cast, though – Paul Cunningham, Morag Stark and David Toole as Albie’s dead father, and his cynical alter ego Klang – the Beacon’s director, Julie Ellen, shapes this complex 70-minute text into a memorable stage experience. Kenny Miller’s box-like white design is beautiful, a fine backdrop to Neil Bettles’s strong video images.

The company’s commitment to access for all is reflected in a compelling use of surtitles and signing, perfectly integrated into a haunting piece of theatre, which now tours on to Stirling, Musselburgh and Glasgow.