Theatres only exist through the relationship with their audience.
Staying connected with the people who turn up in every weather to fill the seats and support productions has been key to planning successful re-openings, whenever those might be.
When lockdown began, Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre reached out with “Where Are You Dundee?”, a way to keep in touch with the audience through creative projects.
“As a follow-up we put out a call for works that were specifically for the people of Dundee,” says Andrew Panton, artistic director at Dundee Rep.
The result is This is for you Dundee, a free online festival of events, celebrating the city Dundee and running from May 14 to 23.
The events are all free but ticketed, with booking from noon today available on the Rep’s website.
“They were initially going to be outside pop-up events,” says Andrew, “but when we realised that this couldn’t happen safely within public health parameters, we changed the project.”
Andrew says that the six companies have managed to keep the core of their ideas, while moving them into digital productions – and have also managed to retain the original interactivity.
What’s on at This is for you Dundee?
In Saturdays Doon The J.M. Fearless Players, working with Alzheimer Scotland, has created a short musical film based on the real-life stories of people living with dementia in Dundee. The stories are told through Andy (Barrie Hunter) and Eleanor’s (Ann Louise Ross) 40-year marriage. They met, of course, at the J.M. ballroom.
In recollect: Dundee Bandwith Collective presents a filmed performance featuring the various never-quite-happened plans that were cancelled over the last year. But the reasons will not be what they seem…
Mother Earth is the work of street dance collective Three60. It’s a story of nature and the powerful contribution that women make to humankind. Follow a goddess as she transforms through her phases on Earth.
For Dundee QR-kun, dance artist Yosuke Kusano has placed QR codes on different spots across Dundee, transporting you to digital dance pieces. Visit them all throughout the week and tune in to watch a documentary about the making of the project from the comfort of home.
In Taking Space, hidden route theatre company and Hayley Blakeman present an audio play inspired by a 2020 study, which found Dundee to be the worst place in Scotland to grow up as a girl. Taking Space is a project that asks why this might be and dreams that one day the opposite might be true.
Dundee Delight Dice by illustrator Louise Kirby and actor Amy Hall Gibson is the sixth piece (see below for more).
Andrew Panton adds that, “it wasn’t just about picking the best ideas. it was the ideas that connect and really relate to Dundee – that have a real resonance with the city”.
The year, he says, has been not only about keeping in touch with the immediate community. but also creating other communities online, something that has lead to the creation of the Rep Studios digital platform. He stresses that opening up has to be done with caution.
It wasn’t about picking the best ideas, it was the ideas that connect and really relate to Dundee – that have a resonance with the city”.
“As much as I would love to open our doors tomorrow, I don’t want to open if it’s not right or if we’re going to contribute to a situation that means we have to play an even longer game.
“Let’s be patient and open when we can – then we will really do that with a bang.”
This is for you Dundee runs on the Dundee Rep website from May 14 to 23. The events are free but ticketed.
Six sides to every story
Dundee-based duo Louise Kirby and Amy Hall Gibson hope to help families find time to play with Dundee Delight Dice, writes Rebecca Baird.
Filmed and edited by Dylan Drummond, the 20-minute performance uses household items like cardboard boxes to create an adventure, with performer Amy rolling three giant “dice” to tell a whimsical story set in Dundee.
“With lockdown, everybody was ordering online. I’m sure everybody had a least one cardboard box coming through the door – if not hundreds like me!” Amy jokes.
“And a cardboard box can be the start of something magical! That’s what we’ve tried to capture.”
Illustrator and designer Louise, who runs Dundee Delights, created the props and costumes. She explains, “We’ve got three dice – one has got all the Dundee landmarks on it, one has got animals, and one has got props that are related to Dundee as well.
“The idea is you roll it, and whatever it lands on depicts where the story’s going to go. ”
They’re not native Dundonians, but both Louise and Amy have made roots in the city, and wanted to showcase “delights” such as Broughty Castle and the Law to local youngsters.
“It’s about seeing all the good things that are out there on your doorstep,” says Louise.
“Taking the show digital means we’ve had to think about which stories would be really interesting to do, with a balance of them being random and funny enough,” Louise says.
Most importantly, the spirit of “making it up as you go” remains at the core of the project.
“Play and creativity are at the heart of everything we do,” says Louise. Gesturing to her bright, bold, but simple designs on the dice, she explains: “Everything’s quite lo-fi, because we wanted to encourage families to do stuff themselves.”
“It’s humble!” Amy adds. “It’s very achievable. So if after they watch it, the children say ‘I wanna do that!’ you can say ‘I’ve got just the thing’.”