Letter from the Manse

July & August 2022

Dear Friends,


This past month we hosted an event that celebrated the life of Charles Nowosielski who died during the Covid Lockdown on 5th May 2020.   This was the first opportunity that family friends and members of Theatre Alba and the Congregation had had the chance to come together to celebrate Charlie’s life.

Dr Jack
Dr James Jack is the Minister at Duddingston Kirk

This past month we hosted an event that celebrated the life of Charles Nowosielski who died during the Covid Lockdown on 5th May 2020.   This was the first opportunity that family friends and members of Theatre Alba and the Congregation had had the chance to come together to celebrate Charlie’s life.

Charlie was the Theatre Director for Theatre Alba and had a long association with Duddingston Kirk.   When I arrived as Minister here in 2001, I was immediately introduced to this group of actors who practised their plays in the manse garden.   At first I thought them rather odd.   They were as diverse as they were colourful.   During the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I was up until midnight every evening locking up and ensuring that everyone was safely off the premises. Over the years I got to know this band of enthusiasts better and I began to really like them, so much so, that I very much felt part of them!

Their first play at Duddingston came about by an invitation from Heather Baird to Theatre Alba to perform in the Manse Gardens.   That first performance took place in 1998 and was entitled “The Shepherd Beguiled”.   It was all about a Church Of Scotland Minister who believed in fairies.   Although I did not see this performance, I have heard many refer to it as ‘magical’.   Theatre Alba always created a unique vision of Scotland with performances of contemporary plays in Scots language.

As the years went on, several things happened.   In 2002 plays started for children in Dr Neil’s Garden, the first being ‘The Faery Queen’.   This was followed in 2003 by our first Easter Play ‘To the Cross’ which was taken around the village.   For several years we had afternoon plays in the marquee.   In total Theatre Alba performed 20 evening plays, 18 children’s’ plays and 4 Easter Passion plays.   Directing and leading all of this was Charlie.   His enthusiasm and respect he had gained over the years meant that he had a very loyal cast, most of whom would appear year after year.   They performed everything from Shakespeare to the ‘The Lass wi’ the Muckle Mou” which a group of Japanese visitors thought was Shakespeare!

Joyce McMillan writing in the Scotsman said, “Charlie’s contribution to Scottish theatre was huge and just constantly surprising and inventive.   Brilliant, beautiful, European, sexy and Scots.   He helped change our theatre culture for good, and his work should never be forgotten.”  In 2013 Charlie directed ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. Although the audience was out in the open air of the manse garden Charlie had us believe we were sitting in a Dutch attic flat watching and waiting.   This was one of my favourites. And the music of Richard Cherns always accompanied the drama and was an infusion of sheer genius.

We shall miss the input from Charlie with Theatre Alba as over these years hundreds of us have not only watched the plays but also were stewards in making behind the scenes happen.    We hope to have a ‘congregational reflection’ of sharing stories of our own experiences of being part of Theatre Alba at Duddingston on Sunday afternoon 28th August at 3pm in the Kirk.

Rev Dr Jim Jack