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Theatre and Writers

Theatre and writers

Taking to the stage, by way of Dundee

From community theatre to national premieres to seasonal pantomimes, Dundee’s theatres present an eclectic and diverse list of productions. Many Scottish actors began their careers on a Dundee stage, and many writers penned their first poems and plays within the city’s boundaries. This panel celebrates Witch’s Blood, a piece of community theatre from 1987, and acknowledges actors and writers with close links to the city.

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1. Witch’s Blood

In 1987, a unique piece of community theatre called ‘Witch’s Blood’ was performed at multiple locations across Dundee, inspired by the 1947 novel of the same name by William Blain. The performance involved local children and adults, and practising artists and musicians, and it culminated in a seated finale at Dudhope Castle.


2. Dundee Rep

Built in 1982, the Dundee Rep (also home of Scottish Dance Theatre) was granted Category ‘A’-list status in 2022. The theatre was designed by local architects, Nicoll Russell Studios, and it continues to present a variety of contemporary productions. Many Scottish actors – including Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, David Tennant and Ncuti Gatwa – have acted on this stage.


3. Whitehall Theatre

Originally the Alhambra Theatre, the building was transformed in the late 1920s into a venue that could show both films and live theatre productions. In 1969, it was renamed the Whitehall Theatre, and its first performance was a Gala Evening of Gilbert & Sullivan. It now presents musicals, pantomime, comedy and dance.


4. William McGonagall

Living in Dundee for most of his life, William McGonagall (1825-1902) wrote and performed badly rhyming poems about serious subjects. Lines from his most famous poem, about the Tay Rail Bridge disaster, can be seen on the Waterfront’s ‘McGonagall’s Walk’, close to the existing railway bridge.


5. Mary Shelley

The creator of ‘Frankenstein’ visited the Baxter family in South Baffin Street as a teenager, and a plaque still marks where she stayed between 1812 and 1814. In a later edition of her famous novel, Mary acknowledged that Dundee had played a unique role in shaping “the airy flights of [her] imagination”.


6. Sam Robertson

Born in Dundee in 1985, one of Sam’s favourite memories of the city was playing football on Magdalen Green. His acting roles include ‘Coronation Street’, ‘Beaver Falls’, ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson’ and ‘Stonemouth’


7. Katie Leung as ‘Cho Chang’

Katie was born in Dundee and is best known for playing Cho Chang in several ‘Harry Potter’ films. She has also appeared in ‘T2: Trainspotting’, ‘Poirot’ and BBC’s ‘Annika’.

8. Brian Cox CBE in ‘Bob Servant’

The ‘Succession’ star is proud of his Dundee roots, and episode 8 of Season 2 was filmed in the city. Two series of Brian’s BBC comedy ‘Bob Servant’ were also filmed in Broughty Ferry.


9. Jimmy Macdonald

Born in Dundee, Jimmy Macdonald (1906-1991) moved to the US when he was only a month old. In 1934, he got a job in the newly formed Disney Sound Effects Department and in 1946, Walt Disney handpicked Jimmy to be the official voice of Mickey Mouse. He voiced the Disney character on film and television until the late 1970s.


10. Will Fyffe

The actor and comedian Will Fyffe (1885-1947) was born in Dundee and appeared on stage, radio and television, and in films like ‘To the Victor’ and ‘The Missing People’. When he wrote and recorded the song ‘I Belong to Glasgow’, he became a world-wide star.


11. William Duncan – ‘The Lochee Cowboy’

After growing up in Dundee, William Duncan (1879-1961) became a huge name in Hollywood during the era of silent films. He started out as a bodybuilder and wrestler, before becoming an actor and director and, at one point, he was reputed to earn a million dollars a year.


12. Henrietta Watson

Actress Henrietta Watson (1873-1964) was born into a theatrical family, and she first acted on stage at the age of seven. She toured Australia several times, and appeared in some fifteen films between 1916 and 1939.


13. Neil Forsyth

Award-winning author and screenwriter Neil Forsyth grew up in West Ferry, studied in Edinburgh, and wrote a number of fiction novels before he started writing for TV. His first novel was ‘Other People’s Money’ (2007), and his TV writing credits include ‘Bob Servant’, ‘Guilt’, ‘The Gold’ and ‘Eric, Ernie and Me’.


14. Eddie Small

A well-known figure within the University, Dundee-born Eddie Small (1951-2020) was a historian and playwright, Creative Writing tutor and Public Engagement Officer for the School of Humanities. One of his plays was ‘The Four Marys’ which examined the impact of Mary Slessor, Mary Brooksbank, Mary Walker and Mary Ann Baxter on the city of Dundee. Eddie was also a passionate advocate for disability awareness.

This panel was stitched by

Sandra Allstaff

Cath Calder 

Rhona Duncan 

Mally Gower 

Annie Hickson 

Jacklyn Koh 

Jill Muchall

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