Joan Eardley: A Private View premiered at Modern Two, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh and then toured UK regional art galleries and arts centres in May/June 2017.

Joan Eardley: A Private View was written by Anna Carlisle for Heroica Theatre Company. The 2017 production was directed by Marilyn Imrie, and Alexandra Mathie played the role of Joan Eardley.


About the play

Anna Carlisle’s ground-breaking new play celebrated a gifted life stopped in its prime and offered audiences an opportunity to spend time in the company of a great painter as she made her way through a life of joys, frustrations, disappointments and triumphs. In this compelling and moving promenade production, audiences came to understand what it was that fired Joan Eardley: they heard the voices of her cherished Samson children of Glasgow and the compelling ‘music’ of the Catterline storms. It was as if they were almost standing in the waves and cornfields with Joan, and they were able to experience for themselves the overwhelming impact of her finished works.

Joan’s touching life unfolded before people’s eyes entailing story, music and, in several venues, authentic Eardley works. The guiding intention of the production was to bring Joan Eardley and her overwhelming body and nature of work to the notice of people in both Scotland and England – the latter, in particular, knowing of her – if at all – far less well than the Scots.

And Joan – played by Alexandra Mathie – was not alone: as well as having the audiences alongside her, she also had with her her steadfast friends from her working life: Margot Sandeman, Angus Neil and Lil Neilson, all painters themselves, and Audrey Walker, Joan’s key mentor and a successful photographer in her own right. All the characters who enriched Joan’s life were beautifully played by Ashley Smith and John Kielty; audiences were carried through the life of Joan accompanied by the stirring music of Pippa Murphy and the evocative design of Claire Halleran. The play was magically directed by Marilyn Imrie.

Cast and Company

Written by Anna Carlisle
Directed by Marilyn Imrie


Alexandra Mathie
John Kielty
Ashley Smith

Creative team

Production manager – Katie Hutcheson
Stage manager – Rachael Miller
Designer – Claire Halleran
Sound designer – Pippa Murphy
Choreographer – Janice Parker
Dialect coach – Carol Ann Crawford
Communications – Matthew Keys and Rachel Tansey

A special thank you to

Simon Donaldson, Louise Ludgate and Gabriel Quigley who performed in the September 2015 and May 2016 development workshops in Edinburgh.


In eight venues, artists from the Thrive Archive (Jan Bee Brown and Lucy Schofield) offered Eardley drawing workshops prior to performances. These were free of charge for participants. There was good take-up, a productive and happy atmosphere and brilliant, moving work produced as a result. The workshops and the artists conducting them and thereby promoted the event in advance, reached some new audiences and ensured that the production left a lasting legacy.



“By scraping away the layers of this complex and fiercely talented individual, the audience is given a fleeting glimpse into her inner life. It made me weep – and that was a good thing.”.

Jan Patience, Herald Scotland


“Director Marilyn Imrie deftly handles Anna Carlisle’s immersive script and the audience tiptoes between scenes as if directed too; we are quite literally following the story. Eardley’s soliloquy on Catterline is transfixing, her words as sumptuous as anything penned by Dylan Thomas.”

Sarah McIntosh, The Wee Review


“This highly engaging and revealing private view merits being made very public.”

Irene Brown, The Edinburgh Guide


“…you leave this production with a real sense of having met the woman, and glimpsing her life and soul.”

Paul F Cockburn, Broadway Baby