First published in The Times, Friday September 10 2021
As Andrew Panton, the artistic director, reminds us in his opening address, the auditorium at Dundee Rep has been empty since March 2020. It is fitting somehow that the company’s first in-person show in 18 months should be a play set in Dundee in the midst of the pandemic that also touches upon aspects of the city’s heritage. John McCann’s script is rich in references to local landmarks such as Balgay Hill, the old music school and the McManus, which the audience laps up enthusiastically. There is even a cameo appearance from the museum’s most famous resident, the Tay Whale.
First published in The Times, Monday February 24 2020
It is said that all political careers end in failure; the same observation could be made about most football managers. Jim McLean’s final match in charge of Dundee United ended in a 4-1 loss to Aberdeen. Nonetheless, the fans insisted on their club’s longest-serving manager taking a lap of honour.
First published in The Times, Thursday September 5 2019
The City of Discovery’s best-known stories and characters inspire all the shows in Dundee Rep’s 80th anniversary programme. The season has opened on perhaps the most infamous event in the city’s history: the collapse of the original Tay Bridge during a gale in December 1879 with the loss of all 75 people making the journey by train from Fife to Dundee that night.
This irreverent celebration of the City of Discovery could hardly be timelier. Dundee has undergone a renaissance in recent years, the most striking symbol of which, the V&A Dundee, opened its doors in 2018. Last year, the city was included in the Wall Street Journal’s top ten global travel destinations and was described in GQ magazine as “Britain’s coolest little city”.
First published in The Times, Monday February 25 2019
Jemima Levick is the ideal person to helm this revival of All My Sons. The former artistic director of Dundee Rep has confessed that she wasn’t the greatest admirer of Arthur Miller’s first major success when she was asked to return to her former place of work to direct the 1947 play. Yet her production does exactly what a good revival of a classic should do: it invites its audience to look at a familiar work with fresh eyes.
First published in The Times, Monday December 10 2018
The Snow Queen is no stranger to Dundee Rep. The most recent production of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, in 2012, starred the aptly named Emily Winter in the role of the icy monarch, negotiating a pine forest on stilts.
As one of the longer-serving members of the Rep ensemble, Winter also appears in this latest incarnation, though this time in the role of the Summer Princess, ruler of a balmy, fruit pastille-coloured region the heroine Gerda (Chiara Sparkes) has to pass through on her way to the frozen north.
First published in The Times, Tuesday October 23 2018
It feels misleading to refer to this new production of Gagarin Way as a “revival” — as though the director Cora Bissett and her cast had somehow breathed life back into a corpse. Gregory Burke’s black comedy, which was plucked out of the slush pile at the Traverse Theatre and went on to stun audiences at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, has thrived on stages around the world pretty much nonstop since its premiere in 2001.
First published in The Times, Monday September 3 2018
There are moments during this production of Anne Downie’s oft-revived play about a family of Scottish travellers in the 1930s when the audience appears to be lost in a haze of nostalgia. Mentions of pearl fishing on Speyside, neep gathering in Angus and berry picking in Perthshire are met with appreciative murmurs. When the nine-strong ensemble performs Adam McNaughtan’s song, which gives the play its title, everyone sings along, word-perfect.
No one is quite sure who coined the phrase “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”, but the enduring sentiment could just as easily be applied to the obvious incongruity of “staging” a radio play.
Watching actors poised in front of microphones, scripts in hands, while their co-stars rhubarb in the background, creating crowd noise, may not sound promising, and yet, done well, it can be surprisingly absorbing. Mull Theatre’s ingenious production of Whisky Galore, set in a BBC studio and based upon Compton Mackenzie’s radio adaptation, has been regularly revived to appreciative responses since it premiered around a quarter of a century ago.
First published in The Times, Friday March 16 2018
It was in the aftermath of the Columbine massacre in 1999 that Steven Slater and Duncan Sheik conceived their musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play about the unheard cries of young people. Fast forward 20 years and it is poignant that this energetic new production, featuring students from the Royal Conservatoire under the direction of Andrew Panton of Dundee Rep, is opening in the same week as a walkout of students across the United States in protest at yet another high school shooting.