The week Dundee Rep belonged to the people...

2nd August 1996 at 01:00
Some years ago, a Scottish theatre manager was able to tell an incredulous colleague the good news that he had sold every seat in his theatre, at top prices, within an hour of putting the tickets on sale. The bad news was that it was for a snooker tournament.

This tale is almost matched by Dundee Rep, which sold all its seats - for four nights in the heatwave - to a largely non-theatre-going audience, for a show that must have cost them little, at least in the way of wage packets. And the good news is that it was for The Fleg o' Yir Life, this year's community theatre production.

"Community" is a useful word, and curiously a favourite both with those who invent new taxes and those who have to think of new ways to spend them.

What it means here is that local stories are performed by local people, in particular 40 young people from the Rep's Junior and Senior Youth Theatres.

These local stories, scripted by Anne Barber collaborating with 12 other writers, two of them in the cast, draw on the impressive ghost lore of Dundee, researched by the youth theatre members from their grandparents and friendly local librarians.

They get a good spin in this script, where a rave is being held in a dangerously dilapidated building. From the start, we are launched into the stabbing spotlight, the relentless rhythm, the group hysteria and trance states. With ne'er a reference to illegal substances, it must be said.

Exploding electrical circuits soon bring the rave to an abrupt end, and with it the realisation that the building is the site of the "burned bairns", the dreadful crime of "Hackett Jack", who then proceeds to terrorise the ravers for the rest of the night.

The final confrontation between Hackett Jack (Keith Borland) and Wee Graham (Darren Lesslie), very possibly representatives of the age range of "under-10s to over-50s" the programme boasts of, is a face-down between two performers totally in command. It quite stills the audience with its finely-held tension, and brings the play home with something to spare.

There is much to be said for this style of community theatre, not least for the way in which it skills the non-professionals with the tricks of the theatre trade. Neil Goodwill, in the lighting box, rigs the dancing lights, explodes the system, blends the large-screen video and generally makes the darkness visible.

Ghosts gracefully fly in on the wire, things go bump in the night quadraphonically, apparitions glow in the dark . . . all right on cue, an example to the cast.

If the theatre staff do well by the Community Theatre, the reverse is true. For at least a week, the Rep belonged to the people.

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