SHINE a bright light on Glasgow's Citizens Theatre and you'll appreciate the illumination doesn't stretch too far - in a cultural sense.

Because just few hundred yards away from this epicentre of artistic grandeur lies a very different landscape.

A world of darkness and gangsters.

"That's true," says Blythe Duff of the Gorbals theatre.

"The Citz does serve to highlight the contradictions in our little society.

"The Citz is a fabulous theatre, yet, my latest play is set just a short distance away and it's a story of how criminality is always so close.

"We're a city with a fantastic appreciation for the arts, yet we're also renowned for our criminal underbelly.

"And when you bring these two worlds together it makes for a fascinating story."

The former Taggart star is set to take to the Citz stage in the one-woman play Ciara, which tells the story of a woman who runs a city art gallery.

However, while Ciara is educated and refined, her father was a gangster.

Ciara is married to Brian, who's still gangster connected. And while she's trying to build an art empire, she can't move forward without facing up to her past.

Indeed, her gallery has been created on the proceeds of crime.

"The idea for Ciara came out of conversations with writer David Harrower," says Blythe.

"He came up with the story of this great divide in Glasgow. David wanted to create a play that highlighted how crime and art could come together."

Blythe adds: "It may seem strange, but criminals and art have long been connected. For some reason, the criminal fraternity seem to 'get' art'."

But it's what they're prepared to do to get it. And while Ciara may exist in a world of soul-nourishing aesthetics and beauty, her own soul has had crime burned into it.

"There are lots of layers to this apparently straightforward gangster tale," says Blythe.

"It's the story of a woman in a very male world. But she isn't a victim. Things have been done to her in her life, but because she isn't aware of it, she isn't a victim, and when she receives that information it just makes her all the more powerful."

Blythe, who is married to a former policeman, has to appear on stage alone in this No Mean City meets the Glasgow Boys play for an hour and 20 minutes.

And grab an audience by the throat. No mean task.

"It's not," she admits with a wry grin.

"When I first appeared in the play in Edinburgh, I found it was hard. It was like taking a beast for a walk. The direction is minimalist, so I can't walk around the stage if I forget a line. It's very static.

"And you are so aware the audience has to go with you every step of the journey.

"But I suppose that's where my experience counts. I've being acting for over 30 years now, so that's helped me get to the point where I'm really looking forward to playing Ciara again.

"And the audiences' reactions have been fantastic."

Audiences quickly come to terms with the fact Ciara uses language you'd normally hear in a ship's boiler room.

"It's extremely raw, and earthy," says Blythe, smiling.

"Before I do a play I have the usual chat with my girls (Sarah, 21, and Katie, 19). The first thing they ask is 'Do you take your clothes off?' And when I tell them no, they breathe a sigh of relief.

"But on this occasion I told them the language was a bit strong.

"Then, when they came to see it, Katie said the language wasn't as bad as I'd made out. But the eldest chipped in and said: 'No, it's worse.'

"But that shouldn't put people off. This is a play about Glasgow. It's a play about a woman caught up in two worlds. And while it's set in Glasgow it could just as easily be Chicago or New York.

"What David Harrower has written is a play that's so incredibly real."

n Ciara, Citizens Theatre, until Saturday.