The story begins in the 1930s when due to the enormous popularity of film, theatres in Dundee began to close to be converted into cinemas. Robert Thornely, manager of the last touring company to perform in Dundee, was determined to find a home in the city for his professional theatre company. He approached the Dundee Dramatic Society, an amateur company, who, also faced with nowhere to perform had recently purchased their own premises in the form of a disused jute mill. Thus in May 1939 Dundee Repertory Theatre was born – the culmination of the collaboration between professional determination and amateur support.
The company had been performing weekly rep throughout the war years and beyond until in June 1963 disaster struck when a fire completely destroyed the building and the company was forced to live a nomadic existence for a short period. Eventually a temporary refuge was found in a converted church in the Lochee Road of Dundee – temporary that is, for the next eighteen years!
After much negotiation with the City of Dundee District Council and the Scottish Arts council it was agreed that the company would have its own purpose built premises on land donated by Dundee University. Work began in January 1979 under the leadership of Robert Robertson who had been Artistic Director for a number of years and who was instrumental in overseeing the building and completion of the new theatre. However, the building work looked like being stopped in its tracks due to rising prices and inflation. A public appeal was launched which raised a massive £60,000 in under six weeks, reaching an eventual total of £200,000 outstripping all possible expectations, in a city that was then in the midst of economic recession. The new theatre opened on April 8 1982.
The building proved a great success - with a superb 450-seater auditorium, providing one of the best stages in Scotland in terms of its relationship with its audience, it received a civic commendation from The Civic Trust Award in 1984 and in 1986 won the RIBA Architecture Award.
Also in 1986, initially called Dundee Rep Dance Company (DRDC), Scottish Dance Theatre was created by Royston Maldoom as both a community company and a professional company, with the two elements co-existing. DRDC had three original dancers – Frank McConnell, Craig McKnight and Liz Gardner, along with two trainees – and the company toured widely in Scotland undertaking residencies and performances, winning critical acclaim on a national level.
Robert Robertson retired from Dundee Rep in 1990 but continued to play pathologist Dr. Stephen Andrews in 'Taggart' until his sudden death on stage at Perth Theatre in 2001.
In April 1992 Dundee Rep’s next Artistic Director Hamish Glen came on the scene. Dundee Rep moved from strength to strength, achieving much public and critical acclaim. In 1996 it received the prestigious TMA Martini Award for the Best Overall Production in the UK and in September 1999 it opened its doors to one of the most ambitious experiments in Scottish Theatre for many years – a permanent company of 14 actors. Also at this time the Rep was undertaking major refurbishment and upgrading of its award-wining building ensuring Dundee a state-of-the-art theatre in the City’s new cultural quarter. Also during this time
Tamara McLorg took over the reins at DRDC, she strengthened both strands of the company – the outreach/community programme and the professional performance side.
Her successor, Neville Campbell, changed the name to Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) in 1995. Janet Smith was Artistic Director from 1997-2012, building the company into an internationally acclaimed company.James Brining became Artistic Director in 2003 and during that time the company created over 50 productions. The Ensemble developed its international reputation, being the first UK company to tour to Iran in 30 years with Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. In 2005, it visited the prestigious Cerventino Festival in Mexico with a new version of Jarry’s Ubu the King and in 2006 it took David Greig’s Dr Korzcak’s Example to Tokyo and Hiroshima. The company has developed co-productions with some of the UK’s leading producers including the Barbican, the Young Vic, National Theatre of Scotland, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, The Traverse Theatre Company, Paines Plough and the Tron Theatre, performing in all of Scotland’s major venues. The repertoire was broad, encompassing Shakespeare, musicals, American classics, new plays and work for children and young people.
In 2007 Dundee Rep Ensemble created Sunshine on Leith featuring the music of The Proclaimers. It soon became a Scottish favourite and has been seen by more than 200,000 people. In 2013 a film version of the musical preimered at the Toronto Film Festival.
In May 2012 it was announced that Fleur Darkin was to become the new Artistic Director of Scottish Dance Theatre. Shorty after this it was announced that Associate Director Jemima Levick and former Artistic Director of The Traverse Theatre, Philip Howard, would share the position of Joint Artistic Directors of Dundee Rep Theatre as of February 2013.
Since then Dundee Rep have teamed up with National Theatre of Scotland to present the World Première of the cult classic Let The Right One In, collaborated with the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh with Time and the Conways, presented the Scottish Premiere of David Greig’s Victoria.
Philip Howard acted as the Rep's Chief Executive and joint Artistic Director from 2013-15 with Jemima Levick as Artistic Director. In early 2015, Philip Howard left to pursue freelancing and teaching work. Jemima Levick then took on the role of sole Artistic Director.
In 2015, Dundee Rep appointed Nick Parr as CEO. Nick joined us from Festival City Theatres Trust, the organisation responsible for running Edinburgh's Festival and King's Theatres, where he held the post of commercial director.
In 2016, Artistic Director Jemima Levick left to pursue a new leadership challenge as Artistic Director & Chief Executive of Stellar Quines Theatre Company. Following this, Dundee Rep announced the appointment of Joe Douglas as their new Associate Artistic Director. Joe joined us full-time in April 2016 for a period of 11 months until the end of February 2017.
In May 2017, Dundee Rep announced Andrew Panton as the new Artistic Director. Andrew is well-known to Dundee audiences having directed the Ensemble in John Kolvenbach’s Love Song to huge critical acclaim in 2016.
The Rep is now home to over 20 resident performers who are rooted in the region but are nationally and internationally orientated. As the theatre grows, so does the ambition. Now one of the most awarded theatre in Scotland and with more Ensemble and Scottish Dance Theatre performances than ever before, Dundee Rep Theatre has cemented itself as one of the leading producing theatres in the UK.