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

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

Rosa Duncan – notes from the rehearsal room


Our cast have arrived. We are ready to set sail.

Today we began our voyage into the text of The View From Castle Rock.

My name is Rosa Duncan. I am the assistant director joining the team on this special production. I am a Glasgow-based director. As an artist, joining this production is a really exciting opportunity for me. For years, the new work that Stellar Quines have produced has inspired me to create and create daringly.

Whilst studying theatre at the Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Arts, I fell in love with a collaborative style of working. No matter what we were creating, as in much theatre, we worked with designers, with filmmakers, sound designers and each element of the production was just as important and would influence each other.

This production celebrates the work of three fantastic women; Alice Munro, Marilyn Imrie and Linda McLean. Day one: A total collaboration.

Linda has created a word-for-word adaptation of the two first short stories from Alice Munro’s collection entitled The View From Castle Rock. Through clever and subtle choice of narrative designation, Linda allows the audience a greater insight into the mind of each character whilst still condensing the stories into one hour of action.

We figure out rules of the text: what does it mean to be both the character and to narrate in third person your own story? How might our story change depending on who we are telling it to?

Marilyn, as a director, is generous and encouraging. With only a short period before the festival begins, we have a big task ahead of us. Although we move at a fast pace through the text, we sail through guided by exciting conversations led by Marilyn.

From 1818 until 2016. The journey that began 200 years ago is now being mapped out across pews, up ladders and on balconies. As a director, I thoroughly enjoying working with movement and so being able to utilise the entire church space presents exciting opportunities for storytelling.

We play with ideas of what we might visualise and what we may choose not to. The power of imagination is a brilliant thing. We believe as we want to believe. We know ourselves better than anyone could; we know what terrifies us and what excites us. Our skill is to encourage the imagination of the audience, to keep them travelling with us through this story.

200 years ago – what was important to our voyagers? Opportunity, hope for the future. Something many of us may have lost recently. The family as a unit, enduring hardship in search for a greater goal, to aid the generation after them. As we begin this process, I look forward to facing the storms ahead and the arrival at a destination we may only imagine now.


Faith Liddell

How would you describe the work that you do?

Basically, it’s all about collaboration. I work with the 12 major festivals in Edinburgh on their joint strategic ambition working across programme investment, international working, marketing, innovation and environmental practice. In order to this, we collaborate in turn with a whole range of creative and funding partners in our city, in Scotland and indeed across the world. It’s a wonderful job that has constantly evolved over the last 8 years.

What do you like best about it?

Keeping great company and the constant, intense learning involved in what still feels like an endless experiment.

What do you consider your best work and why?

There are individual productions and projects I’ve produced or created and of course, there is a visceral thrill in seeing these coming together – which probably has something to do with the fear that comes before. However, I do feel the scale and depth of this work with the festivals and the fact that a lot of our approaches have rolled out into the wider cultural or tourism sectors, has been profoundly satisfying – which probably has something to do with the fact that it is so bloody challenging getting to that collaborative sweet spot.

What was your first ever job?

My first job was in a bar and my first job in the arts was in a bar, the Traverse Theatre when it was still in the Grassmarket.

What was the contact/opportunity/job offer that you feel has made the most difference to your career?

Well, weirdly it might have been that one. When I was working in the Traverse Bar, the job of Marketing Manager came up and I wrote cheeky letter to Ian Brown and Ann Bonnar who were running the theatre at the time and said I wasn’t really a bar person but a market research wiz and that, working on the front line, I knew more about their audiences than they did. They interviewed me and it was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life but it got me noticed and when the Box Office Manager job came up, Katie Stuart (currently with the FST) offered me the job. She didn’t even ask if I could count! It was my entry into the professional world of the arts, my life’s work and the friendships that continue to sustain me.

What’s the biggest opportunity that you missed or wished you had taken up but didn’t? 

Do you know, I’m mostly with Edith Piaf on that one. I tend to be very clear about what I need and want and focused in pursuing these. However, I have fallen in love with Brazil and Brazilians later in life and think I would have moved there if that coup de foudre had happened in my early 30s, but I have very precious friendships and have had some wonderful adventures there. I could say a lot more about the things I shouldn’t have pursued!

What’s your favourite play or piece of theatre?

I was talking about this with a colleague just the other week and we both agreed that Robert Lepage’s Dragon Trilogy at the Tramway was a transformational theatrical moment for both of us, that it bound us permanently and passionately to the world of theatre as audiences and professionals.

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

Being the privileged witness to that first moment of encounter between the art and the audience, be it a play, a dance piece, an exhibition, a film premier, a musical commission or newborn song. To feel, the pride, the curiosity, the fear and the anticipation invested in that moment and the sense that what we are doing matters even if it doesn’t always work out.

What advice would you give emerging female practitioners in the arts today?

What can I say? I’m still learning but I reflect a lot on the value of what I do with my colleagues and indeed on how to do it. I laugh a lot too. As a woman working in the arts I think you have to develop complex combinations of attitude or artistry – for example integrity of purpose and steeliness of will, expansiveness of mind and intensive attention to detail. Most important though, is learning how to sit in complexity of all kinds, until the right idea evolves. I think women are good at that, at avoiding the orthodoxies and looking for the real answer not the right one.

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

You’ve featured some of the Stellar Quines in my life already and I work and have fun with some truly wonderful women. Can I give a collaborative answer and nominate the four stellar festival directors/Executive Directors I work with – Kath Mainland, Joanna Baker, Sorcha Carey and Julie Weston. I learn from and relish them all.

Faith Liddell was recently awarded an OBE for Services to the Arts in the New Years Honours List 2015.