“This is for You, Dundee is very much for our Dundee communities and audiences,” says Andrew Panton, artistic director of Dundee Rep Theatre, introducing this month’s new festival of online-based work.
It’s the latest collected digital event launched by the Rep since the pandemic began, with Where Are You, Dundee? landing a year ago and Shine On being presented over Christmas.
“It’s a continuation of the artistic conversation that we started last year,” he continues. “As we start to open up a bit and return to something we recognise as more like normality, we need to remind our audiences of the importance of the arts, and how stories can be told in lots of different ways, helping us to engage with the world around us and change our ways of thinking.”
With theatre forced out of venues in the last year, work made online might have seemed like a make-do option at first, yet some incredible, forward-thinking pieces have been created since 2020 – and at the Rep, they’ve been met with extraordinary success.
“Where Are You, Dundee? was a task-based project which connected with 120,000 people over three months,” says Panton.
“We were absolutely gobsmacked. I think if we’d designed an audience development project we’d never have thought of doing it like that, but it’s exactly what it became.
“Over 70 percent of the audience it connected with were also new to us, so it made us realise that, okay, digital is the only option for what we can do at the moment, but it’s not second-best. It’s something we need to continue to do.”
In the This is For You, Dundee programme, viewers can see Fearless Players’ short musical film Saturdays Doon the J.M., starring Dundee Rep regulars Anne Louise Ross and Barrie Hunter, which was created through working with Alzheimer Scotland to tell the stories of people living with Alzheimer’s, through a trip back to the old J.M. Ballroom on Tay Street.
Taking Space, meanwhile, is an audio play that can be listened to at home or while walking the streets of the city, with performers giving verbatim voice to real women; it’s inspired by a 2020 study which found that Dundee is apparently statistically the worst place in Scotland to grow up as a girl.
Dundee QR-Kun performance piece
Dundee QR-Kun is a performance piece by dancer Yosuke Kusano, which would originally have seen the audience unlock the QR code on his jacket while he danced in public – instead, due to restrictions, codes hidden around the city will now unlock film of his dances.
Street dance collective Three60’s environmentally-themed Mother Earth will also be streaming online.
For families, meanwhile, Dundee Delight Dice is a digital pack which creates an interactive story of the city, which can also be enjoyed at home or out on the street, while recollect:Dundee is a beautiful-sounding idea – again, home-based around a creative task – in which we can share imagined tales of plans cancelled due to lockdown, to create “a story from an event that didn’t happen.”
While This is for You, Dundee is mainly for the city in which it was made, however, the Rep also know that putting work online means the whole world is now potentially their audience.
“We still think of our community as Dundee or maybe even Scotland, but our communities now are international,” says Panton. “Some of the stats that came back from Smile (their recent filmed version of last year’s biography of former Dundee United manager Jim Maclean, which was a big online success for the theatre) were really exciting.
Growing international audience
“I got an update from the box office a few days before the launch, and there were four people who bought tickets from the USA, five people from Japan, two people from Finland… you think, when would we ever think about those as our communities prior to this period?
“So when we talk of This is for You, Dundee as being for our local audiences, ‘local’ takes on a new meaning.”
Panton is hopeful the theatre itself might be back in action this year, rules on social distancing permitting.
“It’s important that we open when it’s safe to do so, and when audiences want us to, and we think that’s going to be this autumn with a newly-commissioned play,” he says.
“Forward planning has taken on a different meaning in the last twelve months, though, so it’s more about planning, and then planning again, and then coming back and doing a new plan. We’ve become used to that, and we’ve got an amazing planning team at the Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre, so it’s not as cumbersome as it was when we first started twelve months ago.”
- The six online events taking place as part of This is for You, Dundee can be discovered at www.dundeerep.co.uk between Friday May 14 and Sunday May 23.