Dundee Rep's new artis­tic di­rec­tor on 'mag­i­cal place'.

As Dundee Rep Theatre’s new Fife-raised artis­tic di­rec­tor Andrew Pan­ton takes up his post, he tells Michael Alexan­der of his am­bi­tion to fur­ther the work of the theatre’s award-win­ning En­sem­ble

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Malexan­der@the­courier.co.uk

He has worked in Ed­in­burgh’s Royal Lyceum and Perth the­atres and was re­spon­si­ble for di­rect­ing the fa­mous danc­ing Tun­nocks tea­cake seg­ment of the Glas­gow 2014 Com­mon­wealth Games open­ing cer­e­mony.

How­ever, Fife-raised Andrew Pan­ton says it is his new role as artis­tic di­rec­tor of Dundee Rep Theatre that ful­fils a life­long am­bi­tion.

The for­mer pupil of Burn­tis­land Pri­mary and Bal­wea­rie High School, Kirk­caldy, has been com­ing to see shows at the “mag­i­cal” Rep since he was a young boy.

And he vividly re­mem­bers the day when, as a 10-year-old, he told his par­ents he would like to run the theatre.

“When I think about com­ing to Dundee as a child I loved it,” says the 43-year-old. “It had that charm and was a bit rough around the edges. To me they spoke funny – which is very rich be­ing a Fifer.

“But Dundee Rep was al­ways a mag­i­cal place to me. It had that vibe – and still does.

“So, tak­ing up this post re­ally has been a dream come true.”

The Rep is the only theatre in Scot­land with a per­ma­nent full-time com­pany of ac­tors and Andrew feels the venue de­serves wider recog­ni­tion across the UK and in­ter­na­tion­ally for the qual­ity of its artists and pro­duc­tions.

“At the mo­ment Dundee feels to me like a city that is reach­ing out to the rest of not just Scot­land and the UK but it’s shout­ing to the world and say­ing ‘look we are cool, we are great at what we do’,” he says.

“That’s very much what I feel about the next episode for the Rep and for the En­sem­ble – to let peo­ple know about the work that we do.”

Andrew is well-known to Dundee au­di­ences, hav­ing di­rected the En­sem­ble in Love Song to crit­i­cal ac­claim last year.

He was pre­vi­ously as­sis­tant di­rec­tor for the Na­tional Theatre of Scot­land’s Black Watch, di­rec­tor of the Mill Lavvies and move­ment di­rec­tor for Sweeney Todd.

It’s apt, how­ever, that when The Courier caught up with him this week, he was in New York to fur­ther the Rep’s in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion.

“I’m di­rect­ing a de­vel­op­ment work­shop of a new piece about Stan­ley Robert­son, who was the last of and one of the most pro­lific sto­ry­tellers of the trav­el­ling peo­ple in the North-East of Scot­land,” he re­veals.

“It just hap­pens it’s a Broad­way pro­ducer that’s got the rights to the story so it’s kind of ironic I’ve had to travel over here to de­velop a story that’s pretty much about our neck of the woods – but I’m not com­plain­ing.”

He re­gards the En­sem­ble as the “en­gine room” of the Rep and wants to raise the pro­file of the cre­ative learn­ing depart­ment, who he says “con­sis­tently go above and be­yond” with youth theatre work.

He also wants to ex­pand and con­sol­i­date the “phe­nom­e­nal” vis­it­ing pro­gramme of work.

With the first sea­son for the au­tumn to be an­nounced on May 27, Andrew prom­ises an “am­bi­tious and en­gag­ing pro­gramme”, in­clud­ing Scot­tish pre­mieres, mu­si­cal theatre and sto­ry­telling us­ing live music and move­ment.

How­ever, he adds: “In any postin­dus­trial city you’ve got the side the tourist board will tell you about and you’ve got the other side as well. I think Dundee is not alone in hav­ing all those is­sues and prob­lems.

“We do a lot of work through the Rep com­mu­nity learn­ing depart­ment with par­tic­u­larly de­prived ar­eas, making sure we are not cre­at­ing elit­ist work.

“We also keep an eye on our prices to make sure that if peo­ple want to en­gage with the work, the fi­nan­cial side should not be a bar­rier.

“I’m ac­tu­ally en­gaged in talk­ing about do­ing a piece in the next cou­ple of years which is about the home­less­ness prob­lem in Dundee. These are is­sues we should not ig­nore.”

Pic­ture: Alan Richard­son.

Andrew Pan­ton out­side Dundee Rep, where he in­tends to share his pas­sion for making sure the world knows about the theatre’s own En­sem­ble.

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