Romeo And Juliet, The Lanternhouse, Cumbernauld ****
Sinder/Every Map Has A Scale, Dundee Rep Studios ****
After such a strange and silent 18 months, it’s a unique thrill to see one theatre company in Scotland not only returning to life but opening a brand new theatre space, full of light and promise. Cumbernauld Theatre’s brand new home at The Lanternhouse is part of the new Cumbernauld Academy Campus; and although the old village theatre will be sorely missed, the new theatre fairly glows like a lantern through the October dusk, as it welcomes its first audiences into its roomy, glass-fronted foyer.
Inside, there’s a handsome and elegant 300-seat studio theatre, and it’s here that Cumbernauld Theatre Company opens its 2021-22 season with a bold and youthful production of Romeo And Juliet, directed by Kate Nelson, and featuring a hugely versatile cast all well under 30. If there is a flaw in Nelson’s brisk version of the tale, it lies in the speed with which it races through some of the play’s most powerful moments; sometimes, the full measure of poetry is necessary, to build a complete emotional bond with the audience.
Yet if it sometimes misses the full depth of Shakespeare’s tragedy, this Romeo And Juliet features a passionate Romeo in Angus Taylor, and a wonderfully forceful and engaging Juliet in Leah Byrne. Dylan Blore, meanwhile, fairly holds the show together, as he plays both Romeo’s friend Benvolio, and the crucial role of Friar Laurence, as well as putting in a formidable set of on-screen performances as warring fathers Capulet and Montagu, in a production that – with help from sound designer Pippa Murphy, and video designer Tim Reid – succeeds in telling a fairly comprehensive version of Shakespeare’s story with only five actors, but a full measure of ingenuity and invention.
It was one of the huge disappointments of last year’s theatre lockdown that Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore – who made such a roaring success of their Junction 25 youth and community work at the Tramway in Glasgow – moved to Dundee Rep just as its doors closed for the pandemic. Now, though, it’s possible to catch a glimpse of their work over the past year in two beautiful films, premiered in style at the Rep last week. In Sinder, the Rep Ensemble’s three senior actresses – Ann Louise Ross, Irene Macdougall and Emily Winter – transform themselves into interviewers, moving around lockdown Dundee, talking to women of the city about their experience during the pandemic, and how they have coped with it.
The result, voiced by the three actors in a carefully-shaped script, is an exquisite film with a startlingly powerful spiritual dimension, as the women reflect on what the sudden change in their life meant, and how it altered their relationship with the world.
Then, in a slightly shorter film, Every Map Has A Scale, members of Scottish Dance Theatre – which is based at the Rep – dance, couple by couple, with people from the Rep’s wider community, young and older, in a wheelchair or on a motorbike, at the beach, around the city, in the hills, or in an empty shop unit in the city centre.
Both films are a joy to watch; and they give notice that while all of Scotland’s theatres have declared their intention to continue to make their work available online, Dundee Rep is the one that already has its online brand, Rep Studios, up and running, and ready to face a future changed irrevocably, by the events of the past year and a half.
Romeo And Juliet, run ended. Sinder/Every Map Has A Scale are available to view at https://dundeerep.co.uk/whats-on/sinder-every-map-has-a-scale-chapter-2/book
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