The Dundee Rep Ensemble is on the move this summer.
As regulars know, the company isn’t just about putting on shows at the Rep Theatre – they also have a dedicated community programme which involves taking modest performances out to the local centres of Dundee and Angus.
For this season’s outing they’ve chosen a very relevant subject, with a brand new musical sketch comedy telling the history of the area.
“Andrew Panton (the Rep’s artistic director) mentioned doing a show about Dundee last year,” says Ewan Donald, an actor with the Rep who is directing the A-Z. “There are a lot of anniversaries this year – it’s twenty years since the Ensemble started, eighty years since the Rep started. It just felt like it would be good to take this out.” The play and its songs are written by actor John Kielty, who is also one of the six-strong cast.
“We had a week’s development in February, where putting together the stories was probably the hardest bit,” continues Donald. “We could mention Jute, Jam and Journalism, we could mention Ninewells, but the rest were a challenge, we had to figure out which are most theatrically interesting. We’ve got Jack the Ripper, William Kidd, McGonagall, Bigfoot…
“It’s a wide range of stories and none of them last much more than four minutes. We wanted to keep it pacey – our inspiration was the Reduced Shakespeare Company, who can condense a lot of stuff into an hour and a half. Brevity is the soul of wit, as they say, and we wanted to take that as inspiration, we wanted to pack as much as we could in.”
The show is still in rehearsals at the point we speak, but Donald is feeling positive about it. “I think it’s going to be great fun, and I’m not just saying that,” he says of his directorial debut. “What I’ve kept in mind is to make something I’d like to see as a good night out, rather than second-guessing what the audience want. It has to have laughs and a heart.
“We’re doing our best to keep it swift, pacy and fun, and give people a good night at the theatre. Dundee is a good place which is reinventing itself, we want people to feel it’s a place they can be proud of, with an amazing wealth of characters and eccentricity, and the vitality that comes with that.”
A-Z of Dundee is at the Crescent, Whitfield, May 28; Kirkton Community Centre, May 29; Forfar Reid Hall, May 30; Rio Centre, Newport, May 31 and June 15; Murthly Village Hall, June 1; Arbroath Webster Theatre, June 11; Kirriemuir Town Hall, June 12; Hilltown Community Centre, June 13; Finmill Centre, June 14; Montrose Town Hall, June 18; Ardler Centre, June 19; Boomerang Centre, June 20; Menzieshill Centre, June 21; and Eassie and Nevay Hall, June 22.
A-Z of Dundee, touring Dundee and Angus, May 28 to June 22