Joan Eardley: A Private View

Joan Eardley was an extraordinary painter who, quite simply, died before she had finished. As an artist she remains unsung. Best known in Scotland where she was not born; rarely heard of in England where she was.

Heroica in association with Stellar Quines and National Galleries Scotland – are creating a new journey for Joan Eardley: one which brings her back to new life, and follows her as she makes her way through a life of joys and frustrations, friendships and solitary stretches, disillusionments and disappointments – as well as passions and triumphs.

Research and development began for this project in 2014. The script was workshopped at the National Portrait Gallery in September 2015, with an audience invited to share in a Q&A with the writer, director and actor after extracts were performed. Further development in May 2016 led to two further sharings of work in progress and the National Galleries Edinburgh.

Development has continued and the play is touring the UK in May and June 2017 including 5 – 7 May at the National Galleries Edinburgh.

Heroica Theatre Company (formerly Square Peg Productions, founded 2005) champions the achievements of maverick women.

The experience of a Heroica production is unique. Each play event illuminates the life of a secret heroine, celebrating a woman of great achievement, often a maverick and usually unsung. It also reimagines the relationships between history and the present day, and between a story and the place in which an audience watches it unfold.

For Heroica Theatre Company – based in the Pennines and operating all over the UK – location and environment provide much more than a backdrop to the action. Every Heroica event offers audiences a completely fresh engagement with a place, be it previously known to them or not. And the promenade style of performance ensures that, as audiences discover the previously hidden lives of history’s women, they simultaneously find the hidden corners of extraordinary buildings or outdoor spaces.

You can support this project through donating.

Image: Joan Eardley at work. Photograph by Audrey Walker; courtesy of The Scottish Gallery

Pippa Murphy

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

I’m a Composer, Sound Designer, arranger and lecturer. I work with many different people in many different art forms. I love the variety of projects I work on, and the diversity of the people I work with.

What was your first ever job?

Little known to many… My first proper job was as a Customer Development Manager at the Forensic Science Service as it became an Executive Agency of the Home Office. The Home Office was keen for the FSS to take on forensic work from corporate companies and barristers representing the accused. I worked full-time there for 3 years whilst I was studying for my PhD in composition. I had a team of 10 and learnt many skills that have equipped me for life including people management, contact management, marketing, sales and customer liaison. After 3 years I left to move up to Scotland, complete my PhD and become a freelance composer. I haven’t had a salaried job since.

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

In 2001 I was lucky enough to be involved in a creative team who went to Iran for 4 weeks to lead a series of theatre and film workshops with students at Tehran University with the British Council. Together we created 4 pieces, 1 led by design, 1 by music, 1 by text and 1 by movement. It was an intense but unforgettably beautiful experience working alongside 40 incredibly dedicated Iranian students. We had a very strict set of parameters to work within and a list of what we could and couldn’t do creatively. Women are not permitted to sing solo, so I created a scenario that the lead woman was mad and worked with sonic utterances and melodic gobbledygook vocal (song) lines to enable a female musical presence in the show. It passed the censors because it wasn’t ‘musical’.

I’ve never since been part of something so passionate and raw.

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

I love the richness of creating music, theatre, dance and film with others; discussing, distilling, nourishing and bringing something alive to share with others.

What advice would you give emerging female musicians/composers in the arts today?

Be yourself, get to know your peers, be prolific, keep listening, share your thoughts with kindness and work with as many different people as you can.

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

Many of my Stellar Quines are already on the list but I’d like to suggest Dana McLeod (now at the British Council) for her dedication to presenting all art forms in many different cultural and geographical landscapes and for her unsung gift of being the wise instigator of many life-long creative partnerships across Scotland and beyond.

For more information on Pippa’s work go to

Listen to examples from the score Pippa has composed for The Air That Carries the Weight.

The Air that Carries the Weight cast meet real life characters

Thanks to family photos loaned by John Campbell The Air That Carries the Weight cast Melody Grove, Alexandra Mathie and Pauline Lockhart get to meet Marion Campbell and Mary Sandeman.

The Air that Carries the Weight cast look at photos of Marion Campbell and Mary Sandeman

The Air that Carries the Weight cast look at photos of Marion Campbell and Mary Sandeman




Marion’s book The Dark Twin has been an inspiration for The Air that Carries the Weight by Rebecca Sharp. In the play Marion guides Isobel through memories, signs and stories to reach the truth her friend Yvonne discovered before she died.

You can read more about the extraordinary life of Marion Campbell in her Obituary from The Herald, June 2000 “Argyll has lost its bard and champion.”


Alexandra Mathie

alexandra mathie

How would you describe the work that you do?
I am an actress working mainly in theatre and radio. As well as working for other companies my partner (writer, Angie Cairns) and I founded Square Peg Productions in 2005, a theatre company specialising in outdoor (and where possible site-specific) promenade plays on the theme of “Unsung Northern Heroines”. We have successfully mounted six original works so far and as well as acting in three of them I have experienced every other possible job connected to these productions (other than writing the play), from the initial idea through production processes to the final monitoring and evaluation for funders. It is quite an education!

What do you like best about it?
The people.

What do you consider your best work and why?
I can’t really tell. I hope the best is yet to come. There are certainly some pieces of past work I remember being happier about than others, usually because I felt timeless while performing in them and was proud to be part of the surrounding work and production values.  I think I have been very lucky in my work and that makes it hard to pick out specific pieces, but I’ll try…..

Savannah Bay by Marguerite Duras. Wonderful writing and playing opposite the late Faith Brook was a master class every night. I just had to try to get better every day. It was a visually beautiful production and the excellent director, Lily (Susan) Todd, gave me enormous confidence which was a huge gift.

Wit by Margaret Edson and The Unconquered by Torben Betts, both for Stellar Quines and both stretches for me in lots of ways. Terrific, poetical texts that had to be delivered with muscle and were physically demanding to sustain. Directed by Gaynor Macfarlane and Muriel Romanes respectively they were very exhilarating to play and I took a massive stride forward in my approach to future work as a result.

What was your first ever job?
My first ever job was when I was still at school. My sister and I got holiday jobs delivering the Christmas post. As an actress my first job was with the BBC Radio Rep in London thanks to The Carleton Hobbs Award. It was an excellent introduction to the profession. The BBC then generously let me leave the contract early to do my first theatre job, Daisy in Daisy Pulls It Off by Denise Deegan, which soon transferred from Southampton to London’s West End. I was very fortunate and it was a great start.

What was the contact/opportunity/job offer that you feel has made the most difference to your career?
Playing Daisy was a great opportunity and put me ‘out there’ right at the start of my acting career in the 1980’s. Most importantly it made me believe I could do it. Subsequently there have been three occurrences that have made a huge difference to me and to my career.

Firstly, meeting and working with two inspirational people in quite different strands of theatre, Alan Ayckbourn and then Muriel Romanes, has shaped a lot of my choices in the last 15 years and provided invaluable experiences. The second is working at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, a magical theatre in the round that never disappoints me and reminds me that anything is possible in theatre. The third is discovering the work of Pan Theatre (based in Paris) who specialise in choreographic theatre and extended voice technique.

What’s the biggest opportunity that you missed or wished you had taken up but didn’t?
No regrets as far I can recall. I mainly say ‘yes’ to everything!

What’s your favourite play or piece of theatre?
I don’t have a favourite play. Too hard to choose just one! In performance, I have never forgotten seeing the Rustaveli Company at The Roundhouse in the early 1980’s performing Richard III, unbelievably daring and anarchic theatre at the time. War Horse is a current favourite for very different theatrical reasons.

What do you like the best about working in theatre?
It’s live so anything can happen and I do enjoy exploring other ways of being, particularly in rehearsal. I love witnessing the risks taken and the blending of so many different skills to produce a whole experience for an audience.

What advice would you give emerging female practitioners in theatre today?
Properly respect and value your own artistic work – it is, after all, a profession.
Practice your skills and make your own work in order to do so if necessary.
Learn from the many fellow artists who do things differently. Be as open to suggestion as you can.
(I try to take all this advice myself but not always very successfully!)

Who would your Stellar Quine of the month be and why?
Amanda Dalton, a wonderful poet and playwright, as well as an inspirational, imaginative and energetic theatre worker, (particularly with young people) who is extremely supportive and encouraging of the work of other artists. She is a rare person in our creative midst and much to be valued.