Jaimini Jethwa’s The Last Queen of Scotland research

Jaimini started writing about her family’s history as they were forced to leave Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972 and settled in Scotland.

Ironically Idi Amin coined the phrase ‘The Last King Of Scotland’ so she decided to re-address this history and take her home back.

Jaimini’s original research inspired her to write the poem ‘The Last Queen of Scotland’ which takes the form of a conversation with Idi Amin and discusses his decision to expel her family from their home.

The poem provided the title and the starting point for her play – The Last Queen of Scotland – which was developed into a co-commission with the help of mentoring from National Theatre Scotland and Dundee Rep.

Stellar Quines, supported by the National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep, will create and preview The Last Queen of Scotland at Dundee Rep before the play’s World Premiere at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Help shape the future direction of Stellar Quines

Over 23 years Stellar Quines has grown its reputation as one of Scotland’s longest serving and successful theatre companies with a unique position within the Scottish theatre community.

In a period of change and thinking about our future, Stellar Quines theatre company would like to know more about our audiences based on evidence rather than assumptions – and we need your help.

Please complete our short survey, whether or not you have attended any Stellar Quines plays or other events, or even heard of the company before.

Everyone who completes the survey by 28 Feb will be entered into a prize draw for a chance to win £150 in vouchers of your choice. Full prize draw information is at the end of the survey. Your responses to the survey are confidential and your data will not be shared.

Please contact clair@culturerepublic.co.uk if you have any questions about the research.

Many thanks for your support,

The Stellar Quines Team

Stellar Quines & Glasgow Women’s Library launch Play Amnesty

Stellar Quines and Glasgow Women’s Library have launched a Play Amnesty to showcase female playwriting talent.

The Play Amnesty is a call out for plays written by women. As we both champion female voices we are asking people to donate copies of plays and scripts written by women that have been published, produced and/or performed for a new drama shelf.

To reflect the rich diversity of the Glasgow Women’s Library’s collection plays are sought from female writers of any nationality. The Library is particularly keen to receive plays that have a female focus, or strong roles for women, and writing from the Trans community and Women of Colour. Plays not written in the English language are also welcomed.

Plays can be posted to or dropped off at Glasgow Women’s Library or donated at one of our Amnesty Drop Off points.

Alongside the public Amnesty we will be working with Glasgow Women’s Library to ensure culturally diverse voices are represented in their collection of plays, identifying women playwrights and sourcing plays. The plays will be available to members and will be used by the Library’s Drama Queens Group for readings.


Results of PiPA research published – 8 out of 10 parents turn down work

The results of the research carried out by Parents in Performing Arts (PiPA) have been published and reveal the astonishing, but possibly not surprising fact that eight out of ten parents turn down theatre work owing to childcare possibilities.

Over 950 people responded to the survey and 81% of those who are self employed have had to turn down work and 57% of people who are employed had also declined work due to caring responsibilities.

The full results were published in The Stage today and make for interesting reading.

Stellar Quines is pleased to be part of the nationwide consortium.

The 306: Day co-production with National Theatre of Scotland and Perth Theatre.

The 306: Day, the second part in Oliver Emanuel and Gareth William’s powerful new First World War trilogy exploring how the war affected women, families, and communities on the home front.  A world premiere. Presented by National Theatre of Scotland, Perth Theatre and Stellar Quines, and directed by Jemima Levick.

Touring Scotland 5 May – 3 June 2017

The 306: Day is co-commissioned with 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, and is the second part of the 306 Trilogy, following last year’s performances of The 306: Dawn.

The 306: Day is a new piece of theatre about staying silent and speaking out, fighting for peace and giving into violence. It tells the forgotten story of three women in wartime and their struggle to survive in a world that won’t listen.

Please note the performance contains some strong language, violence, nudity and is not suitable for children. An age guide of 14+ is suggested

Claire Dow

How would you describe your current work and what do you like best about it?

I’m a creative producer for theatre and events. I enjoy the variety of shapes that they can take, from coming up with my own creative projects and making them happen, to facilitating and supporting others to deliver their projects through coaching, consultation or management.

I’m currently standing in for Jemima Levick while she’s been away on maternity leave. It’s been an honour to work with the Stellar Quines’ team and support them through an exciting time of change. Next I’ll be leading on the Theatre and Dance Touring Research for Creative Scotland with Lisa Baxter founder and Director of The Experience Business, due to be published in February 2017.

What was your first ever job?

My first job was with a t-shirt printers, I loaded wet printed shirts into the conveyor dryer. Then I folded and packed them. At my best I could fold and pack 4.5 shirts per minute. It was a fantastic small company which took long lunches and played Jimi Hendrix too loudly. I worked there part time along with crewing shows and being a technician part time, they were fantasic at letting me come and go when it suited me.

What made you decide to work in the arts and what role have you enjoyed the most?

I remember vividly the moment I realized that theatre could be a paid job. I was on a youth theatre placement with Druid Theatre Company in Galway, and it was the opening night of Poor Beast in The Rain by Billy Roche. I had finished setting up on stage, I turned and saw all the seats and realized that people would be coming to see it in real life. It was so exciting, I was hooked. I managed to hang around long enough to get work with Druid and never looked back.

My favourite role to date has been producing the People’s Tower; Dundee’s Royal Arch. It was something I instigated and drove through and it was a wild success. The arch was made out of 1200 cardboard boxes and took all day to build! My favourite moment was toppling the 17m high arch and trampling the cardboard boxes with hundreds of overexcited kids who couldn’t believe their luck.

Has there been a particular person or an opportunity that you feel has made the most difference to your career?

Early in my career, a production manager called Tony Kileen in Druid allowed me to go on tour for a week, if I swore I wouldn’t miss my uni lectures or classwork. I went on tour and never went back to uni! He later directed me to degrees in stage management in the UK which brought me over to Scotland. The opportunity to study here changed my life and I am grateful to have been welcomed in to study without tuition fees, and without a thought to emigration or free movement issues.

What do you like the best about working within the arts?

Without doubt the people. You get to meet and work with such articulate, clever and talented people. Its surprising and inspiring. I think that the theatre sector in Scotland is blessed with a generosity of support for each other and an ecology that shares information and encouragement. I love the moment when the lights go down and an audience are present, in the moment, sharing an experience together that exists nowhere else. Its magic.

What advice would you give women looking at a career in the arts today?

Take the time to think about what is important to you. What are the projects you’ve seen that have excited you most? Find people doing work that gives you energy and inspires you and work with them. If you can’t find that, then make it happen yourself and others will come to you.

Be truthful and generous with others, find ways to build your communities of support so you have a place to share your successes and challenges with peers. It’s the most valuable thing, to know that others are there and can help, and that you can help others.

 Who would be your Stellar Quine of the month and why?

Julie Ellen, she’s had a huge influence on me and my career in terms of development and moving into arts management. Working with her at Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland she taught me how to be a leader and a manager, by being an example of what a generous manager and leader can be. We learn from the people who are our bosses, and I hope to emulate her ability to challenge and support people to reach their potential.


Stellar Quines announce two World Premieres in NTS 2017 Season

We are excited to announce that Stellar Quines will be working with National Theatre of Scotland on two World Premiere productions in their 2017 Season. Jemima Levick will direct both The 306: Day by Oliver Emanuel and Gareth Williams and The Last Queen of Scotland by Jaimini Jethwa.


 National Theatre of Scotland and Horsecross Arts and Stellar Quines present

 The 306: Day

Written by Oliver Emanuel, composed by Gareth Williams, directed by Jemima Levick

Touring Scotland from 4 to 27 May 2017

The 306: Day is the second part of Oliver Emanuel and Gareth William’s powerful new First World War trilogy, charting the heart-breaking journey of the 306 men executed for cowardice and desertion during the conflict and the devastating consequences for those they left behind. This second part in the trilogy theatrically explores how the war affected women, families, and communities on the home front.

 The first part of the trilogy, The 306: Dawn, premiered in the summer of 2016 and was set around the events of the Battle of the Somme, marking the centenary of the Somme Offensive. Audaciously staged within a transformed barn in the Perthshire countryside, and co-produced with Horsecross Arts and 14-18 NOW, the play charted the real-life stories of three soldiers fighting on the front line who were to be executed for their actions.

Inspired by real events and first-hand accounts, The 306: Day follows the lives of three ordinary women fighting to be heard above the clamour of World War 1. The date is 1917, and the war across the channel rages on. In Russia, a revolution is turning the social order on its head while at home in Britain, there are women fighting their own battles. Rents are rising. Food is scarce. And war work can be deadly.

Nellie Murray works at a Glasgow munitions factory but is also a member of the Women’s Peace Crusade.

Struggling to cope after the execution of her husband for cowardice, Gertrude Farr has a young daughter and doesn’t know where to turn.

Mrs Byers waits for news of her son. He ran off to join the army at the beginning of the war and she prays for word of his safe return.

The 306: Day is a new piece of music theatre about staying silent and speaking out, fighting for peace and giving into violence. It tells the forgotten story of three women in wartime and their struggle to survive in a world that won’t listen.

The National Theatre of Scotland reunites with Horsecross Arts and collaborates with Stellar Quines for the first time, under the new Artistic Directorship of Jemima Levick. The National Theatre of Scotland is also delighted to partner with Glasgow Women’s Library for the first time on an accompanying project researching the role of women on the home front during the First World War.

“(The) most brilliantly moving of elegies”- ***** The Herald on The 306: Dawn

“An indelibly powerful work of music theatre that will have an impact for many years to come”- **** The Scotsman on The 306: Dawn

The 306: Day continues the collaboration between playwright Oliver Emanuel and composer Gareth Williams and their interest in combining theatrical and operatic disciplines. This new show will be directed by Stellar Quines’ Artistic Director Jemima Levick and will be performed in civic halls and centres around Scotland.

Oliver Emanuel’s work for the National Theatre of Scotland includes Dragon (winner, Best Production for Families, UK Theatre Awards 2014) and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name. Gareth Williams’ compositions have featured in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, St. Magnus Festival, Sound Festival, 5:15, Tête à Tête Opera Festival, Sonorities, Opera to Go, and the York Late Music Festival.

Touring across Scotland   from 16 to 27 May 2017, with opening performances in Perth.

 Join the conversation: #The306

 Full tour details and casting to be announced.


A Stellar Quines production, commissioned and supported by the National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep.

The Last Queen of Scotland

By Jaimini Jethwa, directed by Jemima Levick

Touring to Dundee Rep Theatre (preview) and Edinburgh Festival Fringe in summer 2017

‘My Mum and Dad had £7 when they got here. They got 90 days to leave and seven shitty pounds. 90 days, two pints, one pack of fags, gone.’

August 1972 – Idi Amin had a dream and ordered the expulsion of all Asians from Uganda under a 90-day deadline. From Uganda to Dundee, Jaimini Jethwa grew up in Scotland knowing nothing about her homeland until she found herself being haunted by Idi Amin. She started to run but he was everywhere.

Fae Uganda to Dundee and all the way back again – how do you confront Idi Amin when he still messes with your head?

The Last Queen of Scotland sheds light on a unique period in Scotland’s social history and the particular story of a community in exile that has rarely been told. Just as Idi Amin coined the phrase ‘The Last King of Scotland’ Jaimini Jethwa has decided to reclaim her heritage. Performed by one woman to a live urban soundtrack, through the street sounds of Dundonian dialect, The Last Queen of Scotland is Jaimini Jethwa’s homage to her city – her ‘love letter to the D”.

Jaimini is a playwright and independent film-maker. In March 2014 Jaimini travelled to Uganda to explore presenting The Last Queen of Scotland at National Theatre Kampala as part of ‘Banta in Uganda’ – in a research and development project supported through Creative Scotland’s International fund.

Leading Scottish director, and new Artistic Director of Stellar Quines, Jemima Levick directs. Jemima is also directing The 306: Day for the National Theatre of Scotland in 2017.

Touring to Dundee Rep and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Summer 2017

Join the conversation: #LastQueenOfScotland

The Young Women’s Movement publishes impact report

What has the past year looked like for The Young Women’s Movement? What difference have they made? Read the 2015-16 highlights and the Movement’s focus for the year ahead in this new report.

This year The Young Women’s Movement piloted the Status of Young Women in Scotland report (SYWS): a pioneering piece of research into the effect that their gender has on the lives of Scotland’s young women. The report responded to a gap in research broken down by age, gender and geography, and an especial lack of research highlighting young women’s voices on their experiences.

Almost all participants offered examples of gender equality affecting their lives across more than one area: it is clear that gender equality forms a considerable barrier to Scotland’s young women.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote in her foreword to SYWS:
‘Research such as the Status of Young Women in Scotland is important as it shines a light on the issues still facing young women in Scotland and where we must do more to make sure they can maximise their potential.’

Sphinx Theatre Company Women Centre Stage Festival 2016

Sphinx Theatre presents WOMEN CENTRE STAGE: POWER PLAY a festival celebrating women on stage from the 14th – 20th November at Hampstead Theatre and The Actors Centre. A pioneering festival including workshops, discussions, live performances and new plays from some of the country’s leading names and most exciting new talents creating more and better roles for women.

“The festival encourages writers to think women into the centre of their stories, to ascribe them agency and to create significant relationships between female characters.” – April de Angelis

“It’s almost a century since women won the vote yet inequality still prevails. Women are vastly underrepresented in theatre; Sphinx’s festival will be a fantastic and essential celebration of the female mind and voice.” – Rebecca Lenkiewicz

Dani Rae

Stellar Quine of the Month: Dani Rae

How would you describe your current work and what do you like best about it?
I’m a freelance producer as part of the Creative Scotland Producer Project. I love that being part of the project, means that I am able to take time to support artists and producers at the beginning of their process, before they have the money. I love helping artists get their work in front of audiences.

What was your first ever job?
When I was 14, my Mum ran a pub in Cumbria and I waitressed for her at weekends. I loved it. And when I turned 18 I became a rather adept bar person. Pubs are a great place to learn about people and it instilled a level of customer service in me for life.

What made you decide to become a Producer?
I worked for the Festival Fringe Society as a liaison to the industry – I was giving advice on how to tour your work after the Fringe, connecting festivals and venues to shows and performers with directors etc. I felt that I should go and prove that the advice I was giving was good.

Has there been a particular person or an opportunity that you feel has made the most difference to your career?
I think my family, none of whom work in the arts, have helped me become the person I am and the producer I am. They’ve supported my drive to remain in this industry even when I’ve been at my most skint. Not only have they supported me, they’ve respected me and that’s astoundingly empowering.

What do you like the best about working within the arts?
The people. We’re a really supportive and giving sector. With the support of my colleagues I’ve been able to navigate becoming a working parent without feeling like I’ve let anyone down, my daughter or my job.

What advice would you give emerging female producers today?
Learn by doing, and ask for help and guidance when you need it. Try to work on projects that excite you, as those are the ones you’ll do your best for and as such learn more from.

Who would be your Stellar Quine of the month and why?
I’ve started to answer this 3 separate times now. First I answered with the 3 women I always said I wanted to be when I grow up (Kath Mainland, Tessa Peppiette and Faith Liddell), then with my brilliant pal and colleague Miriam Attwood who constantly shows that so much is doable in a week… but I think I’ve settled on the excellent and undersung Rosie Kellagher. Rosie is Literary Associate at the Traverse. She is probably the most intelligent person I’ve ever known – she articulates her thinking with wit and style, is constantly impressive with the spectrum of her knowledge of the sector (and beyond, my word that woman knows her trivia) and is definitely one of my favourite people to share a swally with.

Dani Rae was Associate Producer for Stellar Quines’ and Edinburgh International Book Festival’s production of The View From Castle Rock.

PiPA Best Practice Research Survey

We are currently working with Parents In Performing Arts on their ACE and Creative Scotland funded Best Practice Research Project, conducted in conjunction with Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Please find below the link to their survey about parental and caring responsibilities in the theatre industry. It is important that as many people complete the survey as possible, irrespective of gender or whether you have caring responsibilities or not as they are trying to get a comprehensive overview of the work/life balance and need to hear from everyone. The survey closes on Sunday, the 6th of November.

For more information about the survey please visit www.pipacampaign.com/research-information
If you have any questions about the process please let us know or contact researchers Tom Cornford (tom.cornford@cssd.ac.uk) or Tom Whittaker (tom@tomwhittaker.net) directly.

Thank you for your time and support. It is greatly appreciated.

Best Practice Research Survey

Stellar Quines part of Parents in Performing Arts first-of-its-kind Best Practice Action Research Project

Stellar Quines are proud to be one of a consortium of 15 leading UK Theatres and The Royal Central School Of Speech and Drama that will be part of Parents in Performing Arts (PIPA) first major piece of work.

The Best Practice Action Research Project aims to identify barriers facing carers working in the performing arts, and to investigate practical ways of reducing them.

The news, announced this week, has received a positive reception from the media, featured by The Stage – Leading venues across the UK have launched a major year-long project that aims to identify barriers faced by parents in the sector and has the potential to “change the landscape” of theatre’, and ‘Theatre consortium to give ‘unprecedented’ support to parents working in performing arts’Equity , the Family Arts Campaign.

It follows acclaimed director Phyllida Lloyd last week arguing ‘the theatre industry needs to get its “house in order” and make better provisions for working parents.’

The first stage of the research will begin shortly, with Stellar Quines working with PIPA and the other consortia members to gather qualitative and quantitative data through a survey and interviews of present employees, and freelancers over past 6 months.

Parents in Performing Arts Press Announcement

Release: Monday 3rd October


Today, Parents in Performing Arts (PIPA), a Consortium of 18 leading Industry organisations, announces its first major piece of work, a Best Practice Action Research Project. PIPA campaigns for equal opportunities and access to work for those with caring responsibilities.

Creative Scotland join a list of funders including The Arts Council of England, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Actors’ Children’s Trust, UK Theatre and The Family Arts Campaign, in supporting this research. The aim is to identify barriers facing carers working in the performing arts, and to investigate practical ways of reducing them. The outcome will be a Best Practice Charter to be embedded in Family Arts Standards in conjunction with the Family and Childcare Trust as well as other performing arts industry guidelines.

PIPA’s first of its kind Best Practice Action Research Project will be led by PIPA co-founders Cassie Raine and Anna Ehnold-Danailov with Dr Tom Cornford from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London. 15 leading UK theatres and theatre companies will participate in the project: Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Donmar Warehouse, Dundee Rep Theatre, English Touring Theatre, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, Hull Truck Theatre, Mercury Theatre Colchester, National Theatre of Scotland, National Theatre Wales, Northern Stage, Royal Court Theatre, Stellar Quines Theatre Company, Theatre by the Lake and The Old Vic (PIPA lead organisation.)

“The National Theatre of Scotland is delighted to be working with Dundee Rep and Stellar Quines to form the Scottish arm of this exciting UK wide consortium, exploring the challenges but more importantly the solutions, to ensuring people with caring responsibilities continue to access and thrive in the performing arts.”
Caroline Newall, Director of Artistic Development, National Theatre of Scotland

“I couldn’t be more strongly supportive of this research being done and us striving as an industry to identity more and better solutions to the challenges faced by parents and carers juggling their family commitments and a career in the performing arts.

This highly necessary project will help us all to understand better the reality of managing that balance across this varied industry and, I hope, inform practical steps for the future.” Matthew Warchus, Artistic Director, The Old Vic

“I am delighted to be working with PIPA on this Best Practice Research Project and leading UK theatres. It is a key aim of Research at Central to combine intellectual enquiry with the needs and aspirations of contemporary professional practice, and it is a privilege to work on a project that responds to this challenge and promises to achieve tangible change in a crucial aspect of working life.”
Dr Tom Cornford, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

The first stage of the research will be to gather qualitative and quantitative data through a survey and interviews of present employees, and freelancers over past 6 months at the 15 participating theatres followed by 6 months trialling possible solutions, exploring barriers and developing creative strategies to overcome them. Participating theatres and theatre companies will attend three symposia to share learning, and will work in focus groups with support from the research team to manage the trials, before coming together in June 2017 to formulate the Best Practice Charter that will be launched in September 2017.

For further information contact:

pipacampaign@gmail.com / 07791 765 456

Notes to editors:

● Established in 2015 by Cassie Raine (Actor), and Anna Ehnold-Danailov (Director), Parents in Performing Arts is a grassroots organisation that emerged as a direct result of Cassie and Anna’s respective experiences of returning to work after having children. Both recognised that the unique challenges faced by carers in the performing arts industry include long and late working hours, erratic, last minute recruitment practices, regular travel and notoriously low earnings.

● Parents in Performing Arts Consortium is led by The Old Vic, London and includes Actors’ Children’s Trust, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, Donmar Warehouse, Dundee Rep Theatre, English Touring Theatre, Equity, Family Arts Campaign, Hull Truck Theatre, ITC, Mercury Theatre Colchester, National Theatre of Scotland, One Dance UK, Spotlight, Stellar Quines Theatre Company and UK Theatre.

● Parents in Performing Arts Project Board is Chaired by Kate Varah (Executive Director, The Old Vic) and includes Alastair Coomer (Casting Director, Donmar Warehouse), Cassie Chadderton (Head of UK Theatre and Membership Development), Charlotte Jones (Chief Executive, ITC), Christine Payne (General Secretary, Equity), David Brownlee (Director, Family Arts Campaign), Jane Claire (Executive Producer, English Touring Theatre), Helen Laws (Interim Head of Industry and Artist Support / National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science, One Dance UK), Melinda Burton (Head of HR, The Old Vic), Rachel Tackley (Director, Chichester Festival Theatre), and Trina Jones (General Manager, Birmingham Rep.)

● The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama is a higher education conservatoire – a specialist college of the University of London which nurtures creative collaboration. Courses include acting, applied theatre, movement, musical theatre, drama & movement therapy, theatre & live performance, puppetry, scenography, actor & teacher training, voice, technical arts & production, and writing for stage & broadcast media. With over 60 academic staff, together with visiting artists and lecturers, Central has the largest grouping of drama/theatre/performance specialists in the UK, an active research culture and is a hub for the theatre and performance industries.

● Parents in Performing Arts campaigns for equal opportunities and access for parents and carers working in the performing arts. It aims to achieve sustainable change in attitudes and practices in order to attract, support and retain a more diverse and flexible workforce. A full list of PIPA’s aims and objectives can be read in their manifesto.

Download Media Release.

New Writing from Molly Innes and Nalini Paul in Rehearsal Room 27

Stellar Quines showcase works in progress at the Traverse from Molly Innes and Nalini Paul. Join our writers and directors to experience a 10 strong cast of Scottish female actresses in a Tremblay play translated into Scots, and a weaving of poetry and Indian Dance that challenges notions of race, giving a voice to India’s forgotten heroines.

27 September, 7:30pm
Thérèse and Pierrette at Holy Angels is a play about friendship and truth, set in a Quebec convent school in the 1940s. This will be the second development of Molly Innes’ translation into Scots of Serge Denoncourt’s theatrical adaptation of Michel Tremblay’s novel. Join Molly Innes, Director Lu Kemp and a cast of 11 – featuring 10 Scottish female actresses (and many familiar Quines) Deborah Arnott, Wendy Seager, Lesley Hart, Pauline Lockhart, Natalie Arle-Toyne, Joanna Tope, Nicola Jo Cully, Sally Reid, Victoria Liddelle, Kirstin McLean and Robbie Jack.

28 September, 7:30pm
Beyond the Mud Walls explores the life of Freda Bedi, an English political prisoner for India’s independence and the first Western woman to take ordination in Tibetan Buddhism. This is the culmination of a years development supported by Creative Scotland, the Tom McGrath Trust and a Dance Base residency. Join Nalini Paul, Director Muriel Romanes and the cast including India Crawford, Paul Chaal and Shabana Bakhsh with dancers Sivaranjiha Sivaptham and Karen Watts from Dance Ihayami, weaving poetry and Indian classical dance into a rich, colourful backdrop.

We invite you to be part of the development of these plays through Rehearsal Rooms by joining in the discussions after the sharing.

Lu Kemp

How would you describe your current role and what do you like best about it?

Part-producer-part-creative-part-administrator-part-writer. Or at least that’s how I am feeling this morning. What makes me feel extraordinarily lucky to be able to make a living out of this is the breadth of people I get to meet and work with. My job is to explore with others the world we live in, and that’s a privilege.

What was your first ever job?

Plucking turkeys. Cold Christmas. Aged 12, having just become a vegetarian.

What made you want to work within theatre?

Sheer luck. I didn’t think the work being made at the university theatre was interesting. I met (the now playwright) Robert Evans while working on box office at the Traverse, and – when we weren’t selling tickets or answering phones – we sent bits of writing back and forth between us.

Has there been a particular person or an opportunity that you feel has made the most difference to your career?

Randall Stevenson, my lecturer at university. He bothered to turn up to see the shows I made as a student. And, he was a brilliant lecturer who made me think that stories could really change the way we live.

What piece of theatre, performance or artist has had the most impact on you?

My sisters are a lot older than me, and the youngest of the two took me to see Robert Leplage’s Midsummer Night’s Dream when it came to London. I was blown away by it: the clarity of the visual metaphors he created on stage made me realize that stories don’t need to be told in words. I sat pouring over the programme and told my sister I was going to design programmes one day.

What advice would you give emerging female directors in theatre?

Only make work you think is necessary.

Who would your Stellar Quine of the month be and why?

Lucy Jane Parkinson, aka LoUis Cypher, a young woman who performs as a drag king and has recently found her way into acting (she played Joan by Milk Productions at the Edinburgh Fringe this year). I’ve never seen anyone work so hard in a rehearsal room, so selflessly, and with such courage. And I admire her politics – she makes me think again.

Rosa Duncan – notes from the rehearsal room – a time to focus!

Week two is over and we are hurtling towards technical rehearsals. After a week of staggering through – stopping to work into scenes, adding detail and interrogating the intentions of the characters – we are now confident of an overarching narrative of the piece.

1st August almost 200 years ago, our characters were in sight of Quebec. Although they still had a long way to travel on both boat and foot, they could begin to imagine themselves arriving at their final destination. How apt that this should also be the last leg of our rehearsals.

Last week of full rehearsals: a week for focus. Focus on our journeys, focus on our clarity of intention, where our focus lies as storyteller. The elements on the piece begin to bleed together. Linda McLean works away developing the text and Pippa Murphy’s stunning sound instantly transports us back to the Scottish Borders of the 1800’s before pulling us into the new land of Canada. We fitted the costumes designed by the brilliant Claire Halleran, utilising the organic textures of 19th century Scotland. We think about how we might use these as an extension of the performers, as indicators of which character our storyteller is taking on.

Using the ingredients given to us by Movement Director Janice Parker, we played with developing images that heighten our storytelling. We split rehearsals in order to maximise time. We work each scene listening to the comments of each individual, every person’s voice equal to each other. In the same nature we share our story with the audience, we all work together as an ensemble.

This is an unusual rehearsal process for me to experience. As a festival production, although we do not open until the 13 August, we must also work to the same timeline as the other performers in our venue (artSpace @ St Mark’s Church). Therefore, we prepare for a slight cart-before-horse experience. We will finish our technical rehearsals then return to the rehearsal room for five days prior to dress rehearsals and previews. We spend time reminding ourselves to have confidence in our progress.

We had a lovely visit from the Edinburgh Book Festival Artistic Director, Nick Barley, who joined us and offered both encouraging and insightful feedback. 
He also delivered to us the special edition of the book – Alice Munro The View from Castle Rock the ‘Two stories that inspired the stage production’.

Then, when Friday fell, excitement took a hold of us as we realise that the tickets on the Book Festival website have virtually sold out!

At time of writing there are still a few tickets remaining for August 29th at www.edbookfest.co.uk

Don’t panic! 

There are still tickets available from the Edinburgh Fringe Box Office:

There is also opportunity to join us in the Borders, from where our story originates:

Eastgate Theatre, Peebles: 31 August

Heart of Hawick: 1 September

Kirkhope Parish Hall: 2 September – call 01750 52257 to book

MacArts: 3 September

Writer Linda Mclean will appear at MacArts on 24 August to talk about The View from Castle Rock as part of Booked!

Image: Lewis Howden, Sally Reid & Nicola Jo Cully in rehearsal

Rosa Duncan – notes from the rehearsal room – end of week one!

Our first week is over!

With the festival just days away, we are beginning to see the sight of technical rehearsals in the distance.

Our story begins in the Ettrick Valley in the lowlands of Scotland 200 years ago. Our characters then undertake an enormous journey, climbing aboard a large ship with many other travellers and then again travel on foot from Quebec to Toronto. Along the way, the qualities of environment change significantly – from the open lands of the farming valley, to the confinements of the busy ship. The upper deck may give you the open waters and, on a good day, endless skies but below deck people are living in shared open spaces, using only their clothing to create sleeping arrangements. People are hanging up a piece of “plaids or shawls to make a half-private space for their families’.

These families travelled aboard for eight weeks.

The sea could often be a hostile host – providing passengers with challenging days.

Week One: we experiment – which textures could we use in our performance to take the audience with us on this journey?

We began to play with the text, with sound and with movement.

On Tuesday evening, we recorded with the wonderful Castle Chorus choir who prepared psalms and worked with Pippa Murphy’s arrangements to provide us with the materials to create the world of our story.

Using a blend of their voices, sound and live music, Pippa Murphy are to create the world for which the story will float on top of.

With the help of Janice Parker, we played with the objects that passengers would have with them. Families at that time would have had to carry with them the entirety of their homes. These items were essential for the family to begin their new lives in a foreign land. In the same way, our items now become the essentials for our storytellers to tell their tale. Our joy was to find the wonderful ways in which these can be used to create the rich qualities of the writing.

A fantastic range of options available to us, we take a day off – the calm before the storm.

Rosa Duncan is Assistant Director on The View from Castle Rock 

Image: Simon Donaldson & Brian James O’Sullivan in rehearsal