Pauline Knowles, the Edinburgh-born actor, has died suddenly. The circumstances of her death are not known, although Æ understands she passed away on 18 October 2018.
The news has come as a shock to the Scottish theatre community, with an outpouring of sorrow from the many actors and theatre professionals who worked with her as well as those who have been privileged to witness her on stage, in what has turned out to be a far too short career.
Born in Edinburgh in 1968, Pauline Knowles was brought up in the city and went to Holyrood High School where she came under the spell of the stage thanks to its then head of drama Frances Paterson, as she told Neil Cooper in an extensive interview for the Herald in 2015, ahead of her appearance as the White Witch in the Lyceum’s production of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe.
Having initially studied English and Psychology at Stirling University, she went on to study at RSAMD in Glasgow – now the RCS. After performing in a handful of shows with 7:84 and Wildcat, in 1992 she played Bernadette in John Byrne’s Cuttin A Rug at the Lyceum and then Georgina in School For Wives.
She went on to play Chris Guthrie in T.A.G’s working of Sunset Song, Alistair Corning’s stage version of Lewis Grassic Gibbons’ novel. His adaptation of the other two books of the Scots Quair culminated in a major staging of the trilogy at the EIF in 1993 which toured to Dundee Rep.
At the Traverse, she played June in Marisol, directed by Philip Howard and Elena in The Collection directed by Ian Brown, before being given a new script by a then-unknown playwright by the name of David Harrower. This was Knives in Hens, which premiered at the Traverse in June 1995, and which she spoke about in an interview with the Guardian in 2013.
Over the subsequent years Pauline appeared in many productions at the Traverse, Lyceum, Oran Mor and Citizens theatres, as well as tours with T.A.G. and Theatre Babel, and regular appearances at the fringe – this year she was in After the Cuts.
She won the CATS best actress award in 2016 for her portrayal of Clytemnestra in Zinnie Harris’s Oresteia: This Restless House at the Citizens, directed by Dominic Hill, which transferred to the Lyceum for the EIF in 2017.
Hill said in a statement, tweeted by the Citizens on Satureday: “I am incredibly saddened by Pauline’s death. I only really got to know her over the past few years when she played Clytemnestra in Zinnie Harris’ This Restless House, and regretted then that I hadn’t had the privilege of working with her and knowing her much earlier on. For she was a truly brilliant actress – brave, intelligent, versatile, with the ability to be both heartbreaking and terrifying.
“And she could be so funny – as Myra in Hay Fever she nearly stole the show as she was so hysterical and cutting. She was a wonderful, funny and truly talented person. She will be sorely missed in Scottish theatre, and as a friend.”
We’re devastated to receive news of actor Pauline Knowles passing. An amazing talent who made an impact on all of us, Pauline appeared in many shows at the Citz. Her performance in #Oresteia will live long in the memories of everyone who had the privilege of witnessing it. pic.twitter.com/UOr6GZBbtO
— Citizens Theatre (@citizenstheatre) October 20, 2018
David Greig tweeted:
It’s heartbreaking to learn of the death of Pauline Knowles. She was at the heart of Scottish theatre making for so long; so clever, funny, transcendent and loved, so present in our world. It feels quite absurd to speak of her in the past tense. I will miss her very much.
— David Greig (@DavieGreig) October 20, 2018
All Edinburgh Theatre sends love and best wishes to Pauline’s family and many friends.