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.


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

The Fair Intellectual Club – Radio Four Recordings

The first of two recordings of new scripts of The Fair Intellectual Club by Lucy Porter featuring new adventures with our three young ladies took place at The Scottish Storytelling Centre on Sunday 24 January. The original cast of Caroline Deyga, Jessica Hardwick and Samar MacLaren, were joined by Gordon Kennedy, Simon Donaldson and Gus Brown.

Directed by Marilyn Imrie, the young ladies entertained the packed house as they met German composer, Friedrich Handel and satirical artist William Hogarth.

A second recoding session is scheduled for Sunday 31st January at 7.30pm at The Scottish Storytelling Centre. Tickets are currently sold out but there may be returns during the week or on the day so please check with their box office.
Click here to check for tickets

The six episodes for BBC Radio Four will be broadcast later this year. Produced by Absolutely Productions.

The original production of The Fair Intellectual Club was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2104 at the Assembly Room, and was followed by a tour in Spring 2015 produced in association with Stellar Quines.

Meet our first modern day Fair Intellectual – Prof Robert Crawford

To support our current tour of The Fair Intellectual Club by Lucy Porter we have invited a selection of modern day Fair Intellectuals to share their thoughts and insights on their area of expertise. We’ll be sharing their responses with you over the coming weeks. 

Our first modern day Fair Intellectual is Robert Crawford, Professor of Modern Scottish Literature and Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrews. Lucy’s interest in The Fair Intellectual Club was inspired by a passage she read in Robert Crawford’s book ‘On Edinburgh and Glasgow‘: “During an era when ‘A Looking-Glass for Edinburgh Ladies’ saw spinning work rather than brain power as belonging to “the true character of a Good Wife”, one of the Fair Intellectual Club’s members published verse in The Edinburgh Miscellany … they studied the Tatler, the Spectator, Dryden, and other writers. They were though, advised that “comedies should be read with caution” and their secret group was discovered when one of its members fell in love with a young man from a local Athenian Society.”

Professor Robert Crawford:

I was delighted — and gobsmacked — to hear that the account of the Fair Intellectual Club in my book On Glasgow and Edinburgh had sparked a new stage play by Lucy Porter. When I was writing On Glasgow and Edinburgh, I was conscious that it’s easy to write about the history and culture cities as if they were occupied almost entirely by men and hardly at all by women or by children. So I was on the lookout for material that let me tell a more nuanced, and more widely representative story. I’d read a good deal about Scottish Enlightenment clubs in Edinburgh, but never, as far as I remember, anything about the Fair Intellectual Club, so when I came across it in the 1720 Edinburgh Miscellany it was too good to miss out. On Glasgow and Edinburgh is addressed both to people who know the cities and to people who don’t, so as well as detailing familiar aspects of each city’s life, it tries to offer what’s new or at least unfamiliar. In basing a whole play around this teenage society’s original records, Lucy Porter has gone far further than I did, and has given this pioneering club a whole new life for the twenty-first-century. When I mentioned the Fair Intellectuals, I never dreamed this would happen. It’s great.

Could you tell us more about the Edinburgh that The Fair Intellectuals would have been living in at this time, and what this club would have meant for them?

The Fair Intellectuals’ Edinburgh was very much the Old Town, centred on the Royal Mile and the closes off it: crowded, stinky, and still reeling from the effects of the Act of Union in 1707 and the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. In the eighteenth century one spirited girl rode down the Royal Mile on a pig’s back, chased by her sister, brandishing a stick: it was a mucky, sometimes riotous street, with some of the tallest buildings in Scotland on either side. There were intellectual energies afoot, too, though: the poet and Edinburgh wig-maker Allan Ramsay, for instance, published his Scots Songs in 1718, the year the Fair Intellectual Club was founded, and its members may even have sung some of Ramsay’s words. When he was in his late twenties, Ramsay had set up an all-male society, the Easy Club, in Edinburgh in 1712; its members read the Spectator magazine, and sought ‘Improvement in Conversation’. That’s the sort of model the Fair Intellectuals were following, but whereas Ramsay’s and most of the later clubs of the Scottish Enlightenment — such as the Cape Club or the Select Society where philosophers including Adam Smith and David Hume met Edinburgh lawyers, poets and thinkers — were men-only adult drinking clubs, the Fair Intellectual Club was determinedly different. In Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland university students were teenagers of the same age as the Fair Intellectuals — but they were all male. The Fair Intellectuals would have known local students, but couldn’t have joined their university classes. It’s tempting to hear the word ‘Fair’ in the title of the Fair Intellectual Club not just as a reference to the ‘fair’ sex, but also as a reproach to the unfairness of intellectual life in Edinburgh and elsewhere.

Can you see any relevance for this kind of club in 2015 Edinburgh?

In twenty-first century Edinburgh there would be room for a club for teenage Fair Computer Programmers — Girl Geeks —  but if the club were simply designed (like the eighteenth-century one) to encourage reading, conversation and social skills of an intellectual nature, then surely it would be of more use today to teenage boys than to teenage girls?

With thanks to Professor Robert Crawford. You can buy Robert’s book ‘On Edinburgh and Glasgow’ and read more about this fascinating time.

Nominate your own Fair Intellectual.

Lucy Porter

What is it like being a female stand up comedian and how do you survive the touring circuit?

From my teens I was obsessed with stand-up comedy, and from the moment I did my first gig I was hooked. There weren’t many women on the comedy circuit when I started out, I am so glad that seems to be changing gradually.

I love live performance and the unpredictability of a stand-up gig.

I hate being away from my children, but I am trying not to go away too much whilst they’re very young. Although to be honest having the odd night in a hotel on my own is quite refreshing.

What was your first ever job?

My dad was a pharmacist, and I used to help out in his shop from when I was tiny. In fact, I was so young it was probably illegal, although child labour laws were more relaxed back then. I’d imagine people must have been put off asking an child for pile cream or condoms. My first proper job was in a sugar packing factory – I had to test the sugar as it came in for purity. I have always had a sweet tooth, so I thought it would be my dream job, but it was very dull.

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

Tommy Sheppard from The Stand Comedy Club has always been incredibly supportive. When I started doing comedy in Manchester in the 1990s it was hard to get paid work, but Tommy even paid for my petrol to come up to Edinburgh. He and his partner let me stay in their flat, and even though I often died on my arse, they believed in me and kept booking me. Tommy also took a chance last year on allowing us to stage The Fair Intellectual Club in his venue at the Assembly Rooms, and I am delighted that he did.

What made you want to write a play?

I was reading Robert Crawford’s book ‘On Glasgow and Edinburgh’, and in it I came across the story of a secret club for young women in 18th Century Edinburgh. I started to do some research into the story, and became intrigued. I had never considered writing a play before, but the confined, dimly-lit world that these girls inhabited seemed perfect for a theatre piece. I knew that I wanted to concentrate on three of the club members’ stories, and so the idea for the play took shape. I can honestly say that writing it was a pleasure, it was the easiest writing job I’ve ever had.

What do you like best about working within theatre/comedy?

I love the fact that I am always meeting new people. I get bored easily and so I enjoy hopping from place to place. I think most of us who work in comedy or theatre feel lucky that we get to express our creativity. Writing a play about women who weren’t allowed to do that has made me feel even luckier.

What advice would you give emerging female writers or comedians today?

I think any success I’ve had might be more due to luck than judgement, so I am wary of giving advice. I suppose learning not to give up or become disheartened in the face of rejection is particularly useful in showbusiness. If any aspiring writers or performers would like my advice they should feel free to email me through my website

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

Would have picked Marilyn Imrie, but she’s already been a Quine of the Month. So I would say Susan Morrison, she’s a brilliant comedian and fascinating history buff who has been an inspiration to me. I named a character in the play after her as a small tribute.



The Fair Intellectual Club tour dates announced!

We are delighted to reveal full tour details of our co-production with Marilyn Imrie of The Fair Intellectual Club. Written by award winning comedian Lucy Porter, the play was a Fringe 2014 sell out success at The Assembly Rooms.

The Fair Intellectual Club is a funny challenging and moving play about teenage love, friendship and betrayal set in the dawn of the Scottish Enlightenment. In the words of Lucy Porter – think Mean Girls meets Heathers!

The Fair Intellectual Club tour opens at the Tron, Glasgow then tours to Edinburgh Napier University Morningside Church Theatre; The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen; the Byre Theatre, St Andrews and Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh before finally heading to the WOW Festival at Southbank Centre, London & Cambridge, on International Women’s Day – 8 March.


One of the best plays I have seen on the Fringe. A light and airy exploration of the the lot of eighteenth century women. I laughed out loud all the way through and near the end felt teary as well. (while still laughing) Great script by Lucy Porter and well-acted. Lots of witty comment on 21st century issues. (Would love to say more but don’t want to spoil the surprises)Anne Hay

New Year News

The Fair Intellectual Club image

As the festive season approaches we’re preparing for exciting developments in the New Year. Stellar Quines are supporting Director Marilyn Imrie in an application to Creative Scotland to re-stage and tour the incredibly successful The Fair Intellectual Club by Lucy Porter, in Feb/March 2015.

The Fair Intellectual Club, first presented by the Fair Intellectuals at The Assembly Rooms in August 2014, is a new play based on a true story. In 1717 three Edinburgh girls set up The Fair Intellectual Club in order to improve their minds. The play is a story of teenage love, friendship and betrayal at the dawn of the Scottish Enlightenment.

We’re preparing to present this at a range of venues new to Stellar Quines, and have some new marketing ideas we’d like you to get involved with. Please register your interest below to receive the latest news on The Fair Intellectual Club.

Join The Fair Intellectual Club

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Marilyn Imrie

Marilyn Imrie

How long have you been associated with Stellar Quines?
I have been an ardent fan and supporter since the start in the 1990s

Apart from being the Chair of Stellar Quines’ board, what else do you do?
I am a freelance audio drama, theatre, voice over and animation director. I also teach short courses in techniques in audio drama at various drama colleges.

What was your first job?
Singing in pubs for money.

What was the first contact or opportunity that made a big difference in your career?
Singing in pubs and meeting the folk singer Archie Fisher.

What was the biggest opportunity you missed or wished you taken?
I never regret missed opportunities; there’s always another one coming along.

In Stellar Quine’s next show The List, the main character is an obsessive list maker. Do you make lists?
I do. And I make lists of lists I need to make. Then I lose them, or find them and can’t make sense of them anymore. But I still do it.

What’s your most memorable moment in theatre?
Seeing Ninegawa’s Medea at the Edinburgh Festival in the open air, when Medea reared up in a massive crane 100 feet above the audience raining curses down up on us all. And [if I‘m allowed two!] standing at the back of the old Fruitmarket in Edinburgh when a collective which I was a part of opened The Great Northern Welly Boot Show with Tom Mcgrath, Billy Connolly, Bill Paterson, Alex Norton and stripper Brandy de Frank , on John Byrne’s set, to a rapturous audience, while I held at bay the Edinburgh constabulary and fire departments, who, seconds before the show went up, had threatened to close us down. Eventually, they too were enthralled.

What’s your favourite play?
The Cherry Orchard… “Goodbye old house, goodbye old life……”

What advice would you give to new and emerging women in Scottish theatre?
Form supportive groups, give due consideration to old as well as new ideas, remember that for many women who don’t come regularly to the theatre, it is about entertainment and a good night out. So always entertain them.

Who would your Stellar Quines of the month be?
Marcella Evaristi, who has been an inspiring, lightheartedly clever, inventive, trail blazing , wonderfully witty playwright in and beyond Scotland for over thirty years and overcome many personal challenges to continue doing so, while being the mother of two of Scotland’s brightest young stars in the worlds of visual art and theatre. And Una Maclean who at eighty can still draw a round of rapturous applause from an audience with just a backward glance and the killer delivery of a line.