Theatre review: Midsummer, Bharatiya Ashram, Dundee

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. Picture: Viktoria BeggMidsummer. Picture: Viktoria Begg
Midsummer. Picture: Viktoria Begg

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.

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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.