As well as having its own building in the heart of the city, the Dundee Rep Ensemble has also created a strong programme of community-based work designed to be performed in halls and community centres around Dundee and Angus.
For this latest micro-touring piece, the concept is as simple as it is crowd-pleasing: an A to Z journey through Dundee’s historical stories and myths, told in a manner that might be either informative or memory-jarring for audiences, depending on their ages.
Written as a series of musical and theatrical vignettes by John Kielty – who is also part of the six-strong ensemble – and his brother Gerry, A-Z of Dundee adopts an informal village hall style of delivery that in Scotland is associated with the touchstone of populist political theatre from the 1970s, The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil.
The stage is a simple raised catwalk, with a set of live musical instruments and relief murals as a backdrop, and the piece is delivered in easy, conversational style.
Ensemble member and first-time director Ewan Donald shifts the tone gracefully from comedy songs about Sasquatch, reputedly spotted in the countryside around Dundee, to the deliberately overplayed horror of the Jack the Ripper segment, which plays with the rumour that the Victorian killer made his escape to Dundee.
The classy ensemble performances really make the piece, particularly the experienced Irene Macdougall and Barrie Hunter – the latter, one of Scotland’s finest panto dames.
To close, the city’s notoriously bad Victorian poet William McGonagall is re-evaluated by Ross Allan’s elegant, weighty delivery – a resonant moment that emphasises the theatricality of the piece.