Theatre review: Midsummer, Bharatiya Ashram, Dundee

Midsummer. Picture: Viktoria Begg

Midsummer. Picture: Viktoria Begg

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WHEN David Greig and Gordon McIntyre’s delightful play-with-songs first appeared at the Traverse in the gloomy autumn of 2008, it featured just two actors, a bed, and a couple of guitars.

Midsummer | Bharatiya Ashram, Dundee | Star rating: ****

It’s perhaps a measure of the hidden depths of this apparently lightweight rom-com, though, that for this year’s tour around community venues in Dundee and beyond, director Ros Philips and the Dundee Rep Ensemble have almost effortlessly transformed it into a show for a company of eight, in which six of the actors form a kindly chorus to the main action, while also playing a huge range of minor parts.

Set in Edinburgh at midsummer 2008, Midsummer is partly the no-holds-barred story of a whirlwind weekend romance between slightly battle-scarred thirty-somethings Bob and Helena, and partly a passionate, lyrical love-song to Scotland’s contradictory old capital, and its 21st century cityscape. The initial tone of Bob and Helena’s romance - which begins with a pretty desperate bout of drunken, no-strings sex - is both raunchy and unforgiving, in its portrayal of a joyless culture where fun only means booze, and casual, loveless coupling.

Yet Martin McBride and Jo Freer, as Bob and Helena, strike just the right note of suffering, hopeful humanity caught beneath a thin crust of lifeworn cynicism; and as their relationship stirs into

life on a tide of beautiful, thoughtful writing, perfectly conveyed by this rich, deep Dundee Rep chorus in both prose and song, we’re privileged to watch something ordinary and a bit squalid gradually transfigured into beauty, by the sheer force of art, love, and hope.

• On tour to community venues in Dundee and Angus, until 31 October.

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