JOYCE MCMILLAN on WHITE GOLD at The Beacon, Greenock, for The Scotsman 9.6.14.
4 stars ****
AT SOME point in its history, every community that has ever been on the sharp end of economic change needs a show like White Gold, the intense and often beautiful community spectacle staged by Iron Oxide and a galaxy of partners at the Greenock Sugar Sheds over the weekend. Created as part of the Glasgow 2014 cultural programme, this huge show opens up the massive spaces of what is now the biggest brick-and-steel warehouse left standing in Scotland, and leads its promenade audience in three group through a maze of gauzy spaces celebrating industry, family life, romance, and the sheer energy and invention of Greenock’s sugar-based industrial heyday, as well as the huge emergency of the Second World War, during which Greenock became one of the main transit ports for Allied troops heading overseas.
What marks White Gold out as an exceptional show, though, is the force with which it integrates both community and professional casts, and the dazzling range of theatrical techniques – dance, aerial work, light-shows, and a powerful score and soundtrack by Nathaniel Reed – that it brings to its story, linked by musician, writer and actor John Kielty as our guide, Mr. White. In a sense, the material is familiar. Yet in its closing sequence of light and movement through the astonishing space of the Sugar Sheds, White Gold achieves a post-industrial grandeur that recalls NVA’s great Second Coming during Glasgow 1990; in a show that captures not only the trauma of the industrial revolution the west of Scotland lived through, but also its grandeur, and its strange joy.