Theatre The Nest of Spices / Mystery location

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
You are driven to a mystery location down among the deserted shipyards, at the end of a long, bleak, straight road on which the council has built bollards to spoil the joy-riders' fun. At the end you are off-loaded into a dark passage lined with doors. The doors can be opened to reveal sometimes startling, sometimes friendly images: a garland of flowers falling into a watering can, a trickle of sand falling on an old pair of work boots, a ringing phone - a man on the other end says he hasn't a bloody clue where he is.

In the huge, freezing hangar you are next led in to meet your narrator (the excellent Walter James), who brings you to the visions that await. First and most breathtaking is an enormous expanse of coal studded with small white flowers over which a straggle of ghosts from the past stumble. Among them is a bride, whose dress is grey with coal dust, and an old man carrying a clock and a colliery band's trumpet which his addled lungs can no longer summon the breath to play.

A crash and a scream of brakes announce the room representing the present, where a gang of teenagers dance around a crashed car underneath bare trees festooned with magnetic tape. "Tonight will be a good night!" they shout. If only that optimism could be translated into something more enduring. The Nest of Spices, directed by Richard Gregory and written by Jeff Young, was conceived after months of workshops with local kids about their aspirations, and intended to represent their history and experiences in an inspirational way. Consequently there's no mention of the Lottery, and though the final image of optimism is frustratingly vague - a little girl in a white nylon dressing-gown on a vast green lawn, watering mounds of earth - the grandeur of the images is itself uplifting.

In a depressed area like Tyneside, perhaps sport and the arts offer the only crack of light to kids used to the sound of doors slamming shut. With work of this quality and vision being produced, and Newcastle United at the top of the Premier League, hope is at least on the agenda again.