The idea for Area of a Circle began when one of the finest singers and songwriters in Scotland chose to make Dundee her home last September.
Kathryn Joseph’s idea grew into an evening of song and stories which brings live music back to the stage of Dundee Rep Theatre – although in a format which audiences will have to sign in and enjoy streamed at home.
“I realised if I lived between the two towns with the people I love most in them – Aberdeen and Glasgow – that was easier for me,” she says..
“This flat came up in Broughty Ferry, I went to see it and, you know, I didn’t even realise the beach was right there… I thought, yeah, I would like to be here. I visited Tentsmuir Forest too, it’s beautiful. It felt really nice to have a place with all this beauty around it, I felt really comfortable in this halfway-between place.”
Moving to a new city in a pandemic
Joseph, whose debut album Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled won the 2015 Scottish Album of the Year Award, moved from Glasgow, which was the same route taken by one of Dundee Rep’s associate directors. Jess Thorpe took up her role immediately before lockdown began last spring.
Although the pair didn’t really know each other in their former city, they soon met up in Dundee.
“I had a conversation with Kathryn about what it’s like to move to a new city in a pandemic,” says Thorpe. “What does that mean when you’re trying to connect with a community, to find your people or things to do, when everything’s shut? She and I came up with the idea; what if she was to do a gig from the Rep stage, and also invited three musicians from Dundee that she loved and admired to join her?
“These musicians would show her the city – what they care about here and how the city has inspired their music – and we’d use it as a moment to look at the musical riches in Dundee.
“In between each of the sets a video will introduce us to each musician, taking Kathryn on a walk round Dundee and showing her their autobiography through the city; what the city has brought to their lives and their music, and reflecting on what the impact of the last year has been on them.”
Who shows Kathryn the city
Joseph explains who she’s chosen to perform and why.
“Andrew Wasylyk is someone I’ve known for a few years, and I love him very much, he is one of the funniest men in the world and also an unsung genius,” she says. “I don’t think he gets as much recognition as he deserves, and his records make me bawl my eyes out.
“I toured with Su Shaw, who plays as SHHE, a couple of years ago and I absolutely adore her music. She’s obsessed with Dundee, and she’s sure the sun shines there all the time – even when we met up for the day, she said the sun would be out by two, and it was.
“Then Sion Parkinson is someone I didn’t know until I moved to Broughty Ferry, but mutual friends said we should meet up, and it turns out he lives at the bottom of my street. His work is unusual, it’s almost classical singing, but quite improvised and with some piano in there, as well. I’ve never seen him live before, so it’s really exciting for me that I’m going to a gig, while also playing a gig.”
A celebration of Dundee and its music
The whole event, then, is an appreciation of Dundee as a place, and for the music it has to offer – and of the experience of listening to live music itself.
“For all of these musicians, being locked down in this area has been about appreciating it, and going out to find places because of that,” says Joseph. “It’s how not being able to go anywhere else has made us appreciate what we have even more.”
“It’s really important to us that this is live,” says Thorpe. “We toyed with the idea of doing something that was on demand, but we thought, actually, we really want the idea to be that these musicians are here and they’re playing, and if you want to see it you have to watch at the same time.
“One of the things that’s so brilliant about live experiences is that we’re there together as human beings.
“It’s also about what’s happened for the musicians when things have been shut, when they’ve not been able to share music with audiences. We’re interested in the idea that them playing together is an act of healing, it’s restorative – it’s saying, ‘remember the music?’ It’s a community using their music as a catalyst for connection.”
- Area of a Circle, with Kathryn Joseph, Su Shaw (SHHE), Andrew Wasylyk and Sion Parkinson, streams live from Dundee Rep Theatre tonight. Tickets at www.dundeerep.co.uk