I was invited to a 25th birthday Gala performance at Dundee Rep last night. I have managed to get along to most plays over the past 23 years and the poster on display of all the past programmes matched my bookshelf at home.
Not as sad as you might think: first of all, the space inside the Rep is simply a wonderful place to see a play. It is a 470 seater, but the design of the auditorium with the projecting stage makes it very intimate indeed. This can be a challenge for actors and audience , but when things go right – as they often do at Dundee Rep – the experience is unforgettable. (Saw ‘Street of Crocodiles’ there by visiting company Theatre de Complicite – and was blown away by it – totally)
Secondly, Dundee Rep consistently put on interesting plays and musicals. They have had a series of first class directors, and their recent ‘resident company’ way of working is the envy of the rest of Scotland. With a resident company, the acting and production team really get to know one another and their capabilities, and we in the audience really enjoy watching them develop and take on different roles.
Thirdly, the Theatre has forged links into the Community from the start, and some groundbreaking Community Plays have been performed. It allowed space for the people of Dundee to produce a piece of work called “On the Line” which was a reaction to the Timex factory (a major Dundee employer) closing down, and the appalling way it was handled. The Rep has also been home to the Scottish Dance Theatre – now internationally recognised as company producing excellent work.
There have been some wondeful moments in the theatre – watching David Tenant begin his early career (clearly a star in the making); a memorable ‘Cuttin’ a Rug’ by John Byrne with a knockout cast including Alan Cumming, Forbes Masson, Bobby Carlisle, Katy Murphy and so on; Joanna Lumley joining the company for the ‘Cherry Orchard’ and ‘Hedda Garbler’; Alan Lyddiard’s challenging productions of Joe Orton plays as well as a wonderful ‘Moby Dick Rehearsed’ where the actors suddenly covered themselves in multicoloured bright body paint.
Michael Marra passionately belting out Jute Mill worksongs from a battered upright piano; the quadrophonic soundtrack of seagulls whirling round the auditorium in ‘Widows of Clyth’; a wonderful play about the Dundee whaling industry called ‘Toshie’; genuinely moving productions of Arthur Miller plays, and new stuff like Forbes Masson’s musical play ‘Mince’.
And more recently, there have been award winning ‘do not miss’ productions like ‘Winters Tale’, ‘Scenes from an Execution’ and ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The British Council asked for the Dundee production of Winter’s Tale to be performed in Iran. These were all truly haunting productions.
Dundee Rep has done everything expected of a theatre, and more in the last 25 years. It has adapted better than most to changing funding, and has kept pace artistically, keeping it ahead of other theatres in Scotland in many respects. Here’s to the next 25 years.
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