Fife director lands his dream job running theatre company

Andrew Panton.
Andrew Panton.

It’s fair to say that Andrew Panton’s love of theatre began at a young age.

Growing up in Burntisland, the director joined the local youth theatre group at eight years old.

He showed signs as a promising child actor, starring in his first film, The Master of Ballantrae, alongside screen legends Brian Blessed, Sir John Gielgud and Bond actor Timothy Dalton.

“I’ve always loved theatre,” Andrew said. “Which is just as well, given my chosen career!

“I started going along to Burntisland Youth Theatre then Fife Youth Theatre and Kirkcaldy Youth Music Theatre. It’s all I’ve ever known, really.”

Andrew’s career could have taken him in any direction.

Not only could he act, he also wrote, danced, sang - he even became a member of a German boy band called Step Ahead.

“It was when I was doing musical theatre in London’s West End,” Andrew explained.

“I guess I was just getting a bit bored of what I was doing at the time and looking for something new.

“I auditioned for a place and, surprisingly, got it.

“It was more of the commercial side of music. We toured with The Backstreet Boys and N*Sync in Germany, the US and South America.

“I suppose in a way I’m glad we weren’t that famous in the UK – you can’t really go on and do much once you’ve been in boy band!”

In the 1990s, Andrew took up a teaching post in Scarborough and became involved in the Stephen Joseph Theatre there, before becoming an assistant director at Perth Theatre.

In 2006, he went on to become assistant to John Tiffany, on the National Theatre of Scotland production Black Watch.

The following year he became Head of Music Theatre at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Ten years later, Andrew finally landed his dream job.

In April 2017 he became artistic director at Dundee Rep Theatre.

“I’d been involved with Dundee Rep for about ten years before accepting the role,” Andrew continued.

“I was the guest musical director and guest director. When I was growing up, Adam Smith Theatre, The Byre Theatre and Dundee Rep were imporant theatres.

“For me, I think Dundee Rep has some very exciting shows, past and present.

“Even when I was young I knew that I wanted to run my own theatre and the Rep was an obvious choice.

“It’s great to walk into a building filled with such amazing and talented people.

“I think we’re just coming to the end of the first season.

“We’ve just finished Spring Awakening and about to start Passing Places next month.

“It’s one of those jobs that takes over your life but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m lucky that I love what I do.”

With a varied career, choosing a stand-out highlight was always going to be difficult.

“That’s a hard question! I always struggle with answering that question,” Andrew admitted.

“I would say it’s starting my first season at Dundee Rep. It’s overwelming, taking over a theatre as you plan the season ahead. But it’s been a dream come true for me.

“Right now, I’m looking out over the River Tay, the sun is shining and there’s a lot going on.

“It’s a vibrant city and I really think it’s the place to be at the moment.”

Andrew is working on his latest production, Passing Places, which opens on Tuesday, April 17 .

“It’s a great play and this year marks 21 years after its debut at Traverse Theatre,” he said.

“It’s about these two guys who go on a road trip and it’s really funny but also life-affirming at the same time.

“They go on this bonkers road trip to find themselves and you end up going along with them.

“This hilarious, life-affirming piece of theatre has been a favourite of mine since it was first produced and I’m delighted it features in my first season at the Rep.

“It’s an honour to be working with such a brilliant ensemble cast and creative team on Stephen’s joyous, hilarious and moving play and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with Dundee and Glasgow audiences.”

What else does Andrew have in the pipeline?

“Next up we have The 39 Steps and we launch our new season on June 2,” he added.

“We’ve got a lot coming up and it’s going to be exciting!”