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Interview: Welcome to London’s newest venue

Personally, I think you can never have too many theatres, but perhaps I’m biased.

You may think that the midst of a pandemic might not be an ideal time to open a brand new theatre, but that is exactly what is about to happen in Camberwell’s SE5. So we thought we’d have a chat with Georgia Leanne Harris, Golden Goose’s Artistic Director, to find out about the theatre, what we can expect from them, and of course, what Covid-19 has done to their plans.

What was the initial inspiration for a brand-new London venue?

Personally, I think you can never have too many theatres, but perhaps I’m biased. In reality we stumbled across a space that had such great potential, and that wasn’t really being used, and thought, ‘this could be something special’. The inspiration for the venue actually started with the venue itself; it was an opportunity we didn’t want to miss, and all of our plans have grown from there!

What does Golden Goose offer that may not be available in many other venues?

I suppose the obvious thing is that we’ve got quite a lot of space! With a lot of fringe theatres having small, black box rooms, we’re hoping to offer another option. We’ve got space and height to allow for those slightly larger casts or a band that some venues just don’t have the room for, and (when we’re allowed to be at full strength), we have the capacity to allow in some good crowds to share the work. 

How has your thinking had to change due to the current situation?

It’s absolutely changed how we launched this theatre. We’ve had to adapt like everyone else and look at how we can sustain and support artists and work with the new ‘normal’. We can’t currently host enormous shows, so instead we’ve sought out shows with smaller casts that we can offer space to. This means we’re still supporting artists and actually launching a theatre.

We’re so incredibly proud of all the artists in our opening season. They are shows that are touring safely, that have come from cancelled events, that are revivals with important things to say. Our building and our community are going to build slowly and safely, but we’re thrilled to be able to adapt so that we can still exist as a new building at all!

What can we expect to see at Golden Goose?

I don’t think you can expect a certain type of show from us. We want to become the kind of venue where we ask artists what they want to say and work out how we can facilitate it. At the moment, we’re looking at runs ranging from a couple of nights, research and developments, rehearsed readings, all the way up to runs of 3-4 weeks for fully funded shows who feel they can sustain them.

We do want to produce in-house shows once or twice a year as well, and this is something we’re looking to do in the spring. But for now, we have an amazing revival of Mark Lockyer’s Living With The Lights On which is full of chaos and hope. We have a UK premier of the musical Now. Here. This‘, and a poignant comedy Howerd’s End which looks at the life of Frankie Howerd and how he was forced to keep his love life a secret.  

We also can’t wait to welcome Eating Myself by Pepa Duarte, which explores nurturing ourselves, women’s relationships with food and what it means to be Peruvian. And we have lots more coming this year that we aren’t even telling you about yet!

How are you going to become a vital part of the local community?

We really want to engage with the local area and provide a space that feels welcoming. Whilst it just isn’t safe or practical right now to have an ‘open doors’ policy, we would love to find a way of creating a place for people to sit and work in our bar during the day, and welcoming local artists into our space.

We’re also planning further down the line working with teens in the area; offering drama classes and workshops about careers in the creative arts, as well as workshops for locals of all ages from practitioners in various fields. While our community engagement is likely to really kick off in the new year (when we can hopefully start to gather a little more safely) we will still be reaching out this year and making contact to say, ‘we are here, what can we do?’.

All set for opening night then?

Of course, we’d love to have a big launch night but that just isn’t feasible right now! Perhaps we’ll throw a delayed welcome night when we host our first in-house production, just so we have some excuse for a party! To me, just welcoming audiences into a building for the first time, especially after so much time apart, and having that first shared experience is a party in itself! 

Thanks to Georgia for taking the time to talk to us about Golden Goose. The venue opens the doors to its first show on 13 October. We hope to see you all there.

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