Dundee's main theatre company launches search for a new home

Dundee's long-established theatre company is set to launch a search for a new home in the wake of the city's V&A museum opening.

Artistic director Andrew Panton. Picture: Contributed

A long-term aim of a purpose-built venue for the 21st century will be explored during Dundee Rep’s 80th-anniversary year in 2019, its artistic director has revealed.

Andrew Panton, who was appointed in 2016, suggested it had outgrown its existing home, which opened in 1982.

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Panton said he would like to kick-start a conversation on whether a brand new theatre should be the next big cultural project for the city.

But he insisted a new home for Dundee Rep, which will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its own full-time ensemble in 2019, did not necessarily have to be built on the waterfront where the V&A has opened.

A key priority will be to make sure a new building can host anything from in-house studio plays and experimental theatre to major touring productions bypassing Dundee at present. It will also have to accommodate the needs of Scottish Dance Theatre, which shares Dundee Rep’s building. Panton said: “It’s really about thinking about what is going to serve this thriving, developing city in the best way in terms of its theatre output. Is it this building? Probably not. We need to think about that.

“Given that 2019 is our 80th anniversary, we’ll certainly be talking about a capital campaign. If the city is looking for another cultural project then the conversation I’d like to have is about whether there is an appetite for a new purpose-built theatre. I wouldn’t say our building is falling to bits, but it does need a lot of work.”

Dundee Rep started life in 1939 when the new company shared an old jute mill with the Dundee Dramatic Society. It was another 40 years before a deal was agreed for a new building on Dundee University land.

However, Panton said Dundee Rep’s seating capacity could potentially more than double from just over 400 to up to 1,000 in a new building.

He said: “We have to work out the business model. Is our building the right capacity? Probably not. Do we need more seats? Probably. Do we need a second space? Definitely. A studio space would allow us to do different kinds of experimental work and more work with young people and vulnerable adults.

“I think we’d be looking at a capacity of between 800 and 1,000, but the idea would be for something really flexible, which we could make into different configurations, which we can’t do just now. You could have a completely flat space with no seats, a single raked seating bank or three or four of them with a stage in the round.

“The city has a clear appetite for theatre, but there is a limit to the size of shows we can put on. We don’t have a way of receiving big tours. People have to go to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow to see them. It’s also about having a building that is truly a venue.”