Rebecca Sharp visits the home of Marion Campbell

Rebecca Sharp is continuing work on her plays Little Forks, and The Air that Carries the Weight, which were both presented at our November Rehearsal Room and have since been commissioned by Stellar Quines.

This June Rebecca spent time on a writers retreat at Scottish writer and archaeologist Marion Campbell’s home Kilberry Castle Cottage. Marion, and her novel The Dark Twin have inspired and influenced both plays, but particularly The Air that Carries the Weight in which Marion’s character features.

Rebecca has kindly shared some notes and photographs from what sounds like an inspiring visit, we hope you enjoy them.

“Had a wonderful time at Kilberry – the cottage was great, I was writing in the same room that Marion wrote in!
I met with John Campbell (Marion’s nephew) and his wife Charmian, who currently live in the castle. They were very generous with their time and talking with me about Marion and Mary, also showed me round the castle.

I wrote a lot!  And clarified a great deal about how the characters relate to each other: it will be Isobel, Yvonne and Marion.

Found an amazing tree in the castle grounds, that had fallen over leaving a huge wall of roots – you’ll see… Also Marion’s stone in the family mausoleum – John said that she didn’t want a standard headstone, but requested that he find a stone from the beach, which he did. Lots of lovely anecdotes about Marion and Mary – beautiful images, like Charmian finding drawers and cupboards full of hundreds of knitting needles: after Marion and Mary moved out the castle and down to cottage, they left a lot of things behind – with so much space, nothing was thrown out!”

Rehearsal Room 25 – notes from the writer

Our 25th Rehearsal Room has begun with the creative team coming together this morning in the Traverse Theatre. We look forward to welcoming the public this evening and tomorrow evening to share in what we’ve been developing.

We have put together a programme, which includes notes from the writer Rebecca Sharp on both plays, gives further insight and encourages you to answer questions such as: Are your choices your own? Do you know what your name means, do you identify with it? What was the first lie you ever told? What remains of a relationship when one person dies, how does memory manifest? Do you use non-religious ritual in the everyday – what form/s, what for? What does inheritance mean to you?

Explore the full programme to discover more about Little Forks and The Dark Twin.

Extracts from Little Forks and The Dark Twin

Rebecca Sharp's typewriter

Rebecca Sharp is hard at work on the scripts for Little Forks and The Dark Twin, which she’ll be presenting at our up and coming Rehearsal Room at the end of October.

She’s kindly sent us some exclusive extracts of the work to give a flavour of what to expect – enjoy!

Little Forks extract:
I want to find the Homestead but I want to find it first. I have to lose Hecate. I send her off to look for pinecones, then I dash between the trees and out of sight.

I keep running, lightly, holding my breath, until I think I’ve come to the Clearing. I stop and spin round, then pounce a little way up the slope to look down.

Tha mi a’ faicinn an fhèidh –
I see the deer.

My first thought is my knife, feel it keen in my pocket. I creep towards the body; sweetly still, dead still. I imagine it fell but since then has been got-at.

I look closer, the neck wound is a door ajar and I so badly want in.

I don’t know how much time has passed, but I feel the shift – geometry sawn up and rolled out over pine needles, my knife at home in its purpose. My pulse darts through me and now has somewhere to go. A separation – but it still isn’t telling me.

Carson a tha thu a’ toirt orm seo a dhèanamh?
Carson a dh’innis thu na sgeulachdan dhomh?

I don’t hear Hec until she’s already stopped and staring. Not a house.

The eyes are frozen windows, it can’t give any more of itself away. I know I have to dig in. Is that what I have to do?

A kick and a few incisions, the crunching sound is sadly small.

The Dark Twin extract:

I had fire.

I remember; I did have it.

I met Marion, I moved;
I let something go.
Or something left.

No – I moved, something was left;
I met Marion.

No – something stopped, as in ended;
I met…

No.

I had fire.

55 degrees, 52 minutes, 21.65 seconds North,
by 4 degrees, 18 minutes, 10.56 seconds West.

Rebecca Sharp

The Air That carries the Weight

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

Writer and artist.  Seems so straight forward and yet it’s taken me years to get used to saying it! I think that’s healthy.  It can be such a strange and tricky thing, how you define yourself.  I’m a writer first and foremost – plays, poetry and prose – but have added the ‘artist’ part as I also sometimes perform, direct and produce collaborative, interdisciplinary projects.  And I came to realise that all the other stuff (the non-writing) is just as important to my creative process, and informs the character of the work that I make.  I love the variety and seeing different elements come together.  When I’m in the thick of researching or writing something new, I get obsessed and become a bit of a hermit.  I enjoy being totally immersed in what I’m working on; but then I also love coming out into the rehearsal or production process, working with other people towards a shared creative goal.  The thing I love best is how it keeps me on my toes – every time I make something it’s like starting again: thinking, writing, rehearsing from scratch – it doesn’t care what you’ve done before, how great you think you are – in that moment it demands your full attention and puts you in your place.  Only then do you know you’re doing it right, because your ego is well out the way!

What do you consider your best work and why?

The Ballad of Juniper Davy and Sonny Lumiere.  I was Artist in Residence with Metal Liverpool in 2009-2010, and made The Ballad during that time.  It’s a collection of 15 poems, made into a book with a CD of original music, and was also a site-specific promenade performance.  I worked with fine artist Elizabeth Willow, who designed everything – the performances, the book/CD, posters.  It was the first large-scale work I’d made that really brought together everything I’d been doing up until then – writing, performance, directing, collaborating, producing.  I was incredibly lucky to work with Elizabeth, as she created a whole world – people were completely transported.  In terms of pure writing though, I do think Little Forks is my best work to date – originally prose, now a play, it just keeps revealing more and more of itself.

What was your first ever job?

A summer job working at an antiquarian book shop in St Andrews, I’d go through for a few weeks from Glasgow.  I wasn’t allowed to do much as most of the books were seriously old and rare, but I was in my element up the top of the ladder dusting the shelves.  I’d be reading all the spines as I dusted the books, imagining what they were all about.

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

Probably my residency with Metal – it was my first long-term residency and allowed me to develop such a large work – large in scale and impact!  It was the first time I’d applied for Arts Council England funding, and we got it (Elizabeth and I).  Metal were also very supportive, so I had a great experience.  It then led to me applying for a residency at Lanternhouse in Ulverston – I ended up doing two residencies there in 2010 and 2011, and that’s when I started writing Little Forks.  So I can trace a real tipping point back to my time at Metal and making The Ballad.  And to be honest, I can feel it happening again, certainly creatively – developing Little Forks and The Dark Twin plays with Stellar Quines: returning to theatre after making other work, plus these plays really sum up what I’m thinking about now and have been for a few years – they both dig very deep.  Working with Muriel, there’s a real artistic cohesion going on.

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

No regrets!  I’m a fairly positive, philosophical person – but more than that, I work very hard (don’t we all!) to create the life I want, or at least to try to.  So I can’t really see anything as being ‘missed’.  It’s a bummer when you apply for funding and don’t get it – that happened recently, but my collaborator and I have gone back to the drawing board and our proposal is now much stronger and quite different, so we’re reapplying.  Things always happen for a reason.

What’s your favourite theatre production?

I’m biased, but The List last year, Stellar Quines at Summerhall had me in floods.  Which was embarrassing, as I went alone.  The writing, directing, performance, set, sound and lighting – it was the perfect example of each element being individually brilliant and coming together beautifully.  Near Gone by Two Destination Language was also amazing – I saw it last year in Liverpool but it’s touring; a very moving, personal story that truly became a shared experience.

What do you like the best about working in theatre?

Learning from others – being able to observe how other people work, in a completely different discipline like design, lighting or sound – then how they interpret your work, and add their own vision and ideas.  Directing astounds me, it’s witchcraft.  I love it, and will be happy to never have to do it (I’ve directed here and there, but not on a large scale).  Writing is such a solitary occupation, I love being around other people’s energy and expertise.

What advice would you give emerging female practitioners in theatre today?

Be a pest – I got an ushering job at CCA when I was starting University in Glasgow by just going in every day, uninvited, to see the manager.  I’d never have the guts to do that now, but it worked!  Also coming back to what I said about defining yourself – don’t worry if you don’t feel sure or ready yet, but keep thinking about it.  Try things on for size.  Then when you find it, practice saying it out loud.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks.

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

I’m assuming Muriel Romanes has already been picked several times over.  Danni Bastian was Production Manager on Untaught to Shine that I worked on earlier this year with Stellar Quines at the National Portrait Gallery – she was so completely in charge, managing various interests with total calm.  Obviously her technical knowledge and expertise are of the highest order, but it was the way she made you feel at ease in an unfamiliar environment that made all the difference.  We were working to a very tight schedule in a delicate environment – it was a team effort, but Danni made it all run like clockwork.