Dundee Rep and the Gardyne Theatre are laying on two very special performances this Christmas. Gayle Ritchie finds out more.
Dundee Rep is back to spread Christmas cheer with a thrilling reimagining of A Christmas Carol.
Featuring everyone’s favourite characters – from Tiny Tim and Jacob Marley to the Ghost of Christmas Past, this wonderfully witty re-telling of Dickens’ tale of redemption is filled with ghostly thrills and gets the audience involved to help tell the story.
The Rep’s artistic director Andrew Panton worked closely with Scottish Dance Theatre’s Joan Clevillé for the first time since the venue reopened post-lockdown, with the latter taking on the role of movement director.
Written by Noisemaker’s Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie and with Isaac Savage as musical director, the story is brought to life by the Rep’s Ensemble and guest actors, including Stephanie Cremona, Ewan Donald, Caitlin Forbes, Charlotte Grayson, Irene Macdougall, Benjamin Osugo, Ann Louise Ross, Isaac Savage, Mark Scott, Charlie West and Emily Winter.
Andrew, who says he always takes the Rep’s choice of Christmas shows “really seriously”, says: “For the majority of us, it’s the first time as children that we experience live performance.
“I remember the impact these shows had on me when I was young and know that it was watching Stanley Baxter on stage in pantomime that drew me into the magic of telling stories with songs, live music, dance and movement.
“This year’s Christmas Carol is special as it’s a brand new musical. It’s the iconic story for this time of year. It’s a story of redemption, transformation and love.
“I think these themes particularly resonate with us all at the moment as we take on new and altered ways of living our lives. I loved this story growing up and it’s really joyous to explore and reimagine it for the stage as a musical with this brilliant cast and creative team.”
Andrew says the show is a “big ask” of the actors.
“There are lots of characters to move between and almost all of the show has live music which comes from the cast of actor-musicians.
“Together they form a group of storytellers, who sing, dance and narrate their way through the story.”
While Andrew promises lots of surprises, he doesn’t want to give too much away – “That would spoil the surprises!” – but adding: “There are points when we ask the audience to help us tell the story which should be a lot of fun!”
This year’s Christmas Carol is special as it’s a brand new musical. It’s the iconic story for this time of year. It’s a story of redemption, transformation and love.”
The Gardyne Theatre’s Christmas offering, courtesy of the Thomson-Leng Musical Society, is also guaranteed to bring smiles and festive cheer aplenty with its magical performance of Sleeping Beauty.
The society’s president Donna Bell says the story will strike a chord with many people.
“We’ve all been ‘asleep’ – stuck at home – for over a year,” she says.
“We’ve chosen a panto by Ben Crocker who’s a fantastic writer. The script is full of fun, frolics, music and dancing. “It’s a truly fantastic show for all the family to enjoy.”
“The cast have been working really hard in harmony with the musical director Billy Muir, and with Donna Reilly our choreographer.”
Donna says being back on stage and having an audience play along is what the society has been waiting for.
“It’s all about the hope that we came through the other side of the pandemic. We are still together and stronger than ever.”
When Covid forced the cancellation of the 2020 show, the society decided to perform an online panto which went down a treat.
“It was amazing how the team adapted to the restrictions in order to provide the public with some new characters and the usual panto gaffs and we were lucky to be helped out with costumes by Dundee-based Utopia to bring it to life,” says Donna.
“It was great fun to film, although challenging with the restrictions. However, we received great feedback.”
We’ve all been ‘asleep’ – stuck at home – for over a year.”
Donna says members of the society see themselves as “a family – a theatre family”.
“We’re a crazy bunch of theatre lovers, some of whom have performed with the society for many years, as well as some fresh new faces.
“They’re an incredible team of people who work well together and support each other, bringing their individual strengths and talents to ensure the audience have a musical extravaganza to remember.
“Amateur theatre brings friendship, confidence and lots of fun to many people across the city.”