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

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.