Perth Theatre treated audiences to a special Boxing Day gift by sharing The Dress, a specially created video starring Scottish comedian, actor and writer Karen Dunbar.

Made with funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and shot during the first lockdown in summer 2020, the release of the video was particularly poignant coming on the day that fresh COVID-19 restrictions brought the curtains down on Perth Theatre’s smash hit family pantomime Cinderella.

Karen Dunbar in ‘The Dress’

Karen Dunbar was winning hearts and applause in her role of Lady Bracknell in Perth Theatre’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest when, along with theatres across the country, the venue was forced to close its doors in March 2020. In the short film, Karen returns to explore a closed Perth Theatre, experiencing some spine-chilling moments and encountering some ghosts of productions past, in a love letter to the theatre’s historic roots and the essential role it plays in bringing people together. 

Lu Kemp, Artistic Director for Perth Theatre said:

“If ever a virus were designed to stop theatre – a shared space where we come together to tell stories, laugh together, breathe together – Covid is it. And yet it hasn’t. The last year has shown how audiences and theatre will find each other and come together against any odds – and that just when you thought the doors were closed, they will open and welcome you back. Covid has reminded us that the arts are as vital to our collective wellbeing as friendship and food. 

Thanks to the National Lottery and its players we’ve been able to create this poignant video to throw open our virtual doors and invite audiences and supporters to experience some of the memories held within its historic walls.   

We’re grateful that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting us at this crucial time – it’s a lifeline to us and others who are passionate about sustaining heritage for the benefit of all.”

Karen Dunbar said:

“In a time of so much uncertainty one thing is sure: we have to make stuff! Creativity is a link to sanity and community and my hope is to keep creating so I can connect with myself and those around me. Theatre is a vital place for that sharing to exist.” 

Caroline Clark, Director for Scotland, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:

“Congratulations to Perth Theatre on producing this intriguing and poignant video film starring Karen Dunbar. It captures the effect of the lockdowns on theatres, and highlights the importance of these venues at the heart of communities around the country.

“Through the generosity of National Lottery players, and our emergency COVID funding awards, we were delighted to help support Perth Theatre, a vital cultural asset for the people of Perth and Perthshire, and further afield.”

The funding, made possible by National Lottery players, was awarded through The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Emergency Fund. £50million was made available to provide emergency funding for those most in need across the heritage sector.

The UK-wide fund aimed to address both immediate emergency actions and help organisations to start thinking about recovery.

With every challenge presented by the pandemic, Perth Theatre and sister venue Perth Concert Hall have committed to opening new windows of creative opportunity for artists and audiences alike, showing unparalleled innovativeness and resilience in the face of extreme circumstances. 

This commitment was recognised in November when the team scooped the Best COVID Response and Reinvention Award at the 2021 Perthshire Chamber of Commerce Business Star Awards. Perth Theatre has also been shortlisted for The Stage 2022 Awards Community Project of the Year category for its Gig On A Truck project, taking music and theatre to care home residents. 

The Dress is dedicated to everyone who supported Perth Theatre’s reopening season. It celebrates Perth Theatre’s place as a beacon of inspiration for over 120 years; an inspiration that will continue in 2022 as Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre work towards welcoming audiences back with a packed programme of entertainment and activities.

Horsecross Arts is supported by Creative Scotland, Perth & Kinross Council and The Gannochy Trust.