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Interview with Kate Golledge

At the time of the interview, Kate Golledge was the resident director of The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium, and has been with the show since its early conception, working alongside Jeremy Sams the director through the workshop period, rehearsals and previews.

Kate Golledge

Kate’s enthusiasm for the performing arts was apparent at an early age, attending school in Brighton her favourite subject was of course drama.

Of her time there, Kate says; “Although it was a very academic school I did also take English Literature, Music and History A levels which was a hardcore combination. We wrote about 12 essays a week! My least favourite subjects were weirdly P.E. and Geography.”

When she left school, Kate then went to the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts, where she graduated in 2002, with a BA (1st) Performing Arts/Acting/Directing. While studying at the university, Kate took the directing elective and directed a show for her final project called SIX WOMEN WITH BRAIN DEATH. This was picked up by the National Student Theatre Company as one of their three best student shows and they produced it at the Edinburgh Festival in 2002 and a revival in 2004 as a showcase.

Reported in the Entertainment and Arts section of the BBC’s website on 2nd September 2002, a review is quoted as saying; “Six Women with Brain Death was fantastic. Both funny, and thought-provoking, really worthwhile.”

The start of a brilliant career as a director was only just beginning!

I recently asked Kate a few questions about her herself, and working on The Wizard of Oz. I hope that you will enjoy a brief insight into the life of a director!

Studying Performing Arts, when did you make the decision that you wanted to focus on being a director and not an actress?
I went to LIPA on the acting course. It was a brilliant way into the profession as there was an opportunity to build your own degree, to an extent. Everyone took the same core programme and then individual specialist training (acting, for me) but there was an option every year that you could pick from a huge list. Some students went to John Moore’s University to do really unusual options like Russian literature or a language.

I took the directing elective and directed a show for my final project called SIX WOMEN WITH BRAIN DEATH. It was picked up by the National Student Theatre Company as one of their three best student shows and they produced it at the Edinburgh Festival. It was in the technical rehearsals for SIX WOMEN that it really clicked. I was talking to the designer, Morgan Large, about something and just realised that it felt exactly right to be on this side of the footlights.

Did anyone in particular inspire you to want to work within theatre?
It was something that I always knew I wanted to do. Strangely the first West End show I saw was BARNUM, here at the Palladium with Michael Crawford. It’s nice to have come full circle and be working here with him.

Do you have anyone as a role model that you aspire to be like?
I really admire Phyllida Lloyd as a director, I assisted her on a project a few years ago at the Young Vic and what struck me was her amazing calm energy. She runs an incredibly creative rehearsal room and has such a lovely manner with the actors, stage management and her team. If I could have just half of her poise and humour I’d be very happy.

What is your role as the resident director at the London Palladium?
I worked alongside Jeremy Sams the director through the workshop period, rehearsals and previews, up to first night. After first night, Jeremy left the show in order to pursue other projects and I am now responsible for maintaining the shows creative elements. This includes watching and noting the show a few times a week, training up and maintaining the two sets of understudies, recasting roles as and when contracts come to their end and generally looking after the show artistically.

For example, this evening, I gave some notes and chatted to Sophie about her performance last night and then visited the dressing rooms to talk to the three friends of Dorothy about some technical questions they had. I worked with the musical director for a while to tidy up a bit of music in the fight sequence which had got faster and was starting to not time out properly and then put a contingency plan in place for one of our pyrotechnics which has been playing up recently. We had a meeting to schedule understudy rehearsals for next week then I watched the show and wrote a load more notes for tomorrow!

In a really general sense, my job is to make sure that the audience who watch the show in six months time see the same brilliant sparkling piece as the audience who watched it on our press night.

What is it like working on The Wizard of Oz?
The Wizard of Oz is by far the biggest show I have ever been a part of. It is amazing to be working on a show of this scale and exciting to be part of something which is so well known – everyone has an opinion and it’s fascinating to see how strongly people respond. I love being part of a family show as I strongly believe children should be taken to the theatre from a young age, and it’s heartbreakingly cute to see so many little people dressed as Dorothy and Tin Man every week having the absolute time of their lives.

When Jeremy and I first started working on Oz, we promised ourselves that we would treat this script like any other script that had just come through the letterbox. It’s hard to forget everything you know about something that is such a classic but in a way you have to, in order to make it translate. Theatre is a different medium to film and needs to be handled as such and I think Jeremy and Rob (Jones, the designer) did a wonderful job of making those iconic moments work in a different, theatrical way. My favourite example of this in the show is Dorothy’s arrival in Munchkinland and Glinda’s first entrance which is completely different to the film and pure theatrical magic.

What do you usually do on your ‘nights off’ from The Wizard of Oz?
I like to go to the theatre to see other shows, or spend the evening at home – I have a group of really good friends most of who live nearby and we cook and drink tea and play Balderdash or sit in the garden and barbecue until it gets dark. Some of us have been friends for over ten years and I love having them all around.

Which part of your job do you love the most?
On Oz, I love that every single day is different. There really is never a dull moment. I love problem solving which is lucky as there are always questions and challenges to be met.

More generally, as a director, I love the technical period. It’s without a doubt the most challenging part of the job as there are a million people firing questions at you all the time and you have to engage all of your instinct to keep the plates spinning. It’s also the part of the process when you can empty your head of everything you have had to hold in there for so long and see it all beginning to take shape on the outside of your brain.

I also really love casting. I don’t know why but I have a ridiculously good brain for names and faces and my friends are always asking me for recommendations of people for various projects. I used to do a lot of teaching of acting and one of my big joys has been being able to help my ex-students take their first steps into professional work.

Which is your favourite character in The Wizard of Oz?
I love Dorothy for her fighting spirit. Nothing phases her, she is brave and endlessly optimistic.

The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium has to be at the height of anyone’s career, but is there a play or musical that you would one day love to be a part of?
I am mad about new musicals and in the future I’d like to be part of bringing unknown work to a wider audience. The best show I have ever seen was THE SCOTSBORO BOYS on Broadway and I think it’s a shame that amazing pieces like that aren’t represented in Britain. I suppose we don’t have the audience for it. I’d like to direct William Finn’s A NEW BRAIN and I’d also love to do the UK premiere of NEXT TO NORMAL but I imagine there is a huge list of people wanting to do that one! I’m hoping that an incredible new British musical will come my way soon and I will be able to champion it to international success.

Are there any actors/actresses that you would like to direct?
I have always really admired Anna Francolini and would love to direct her in the right project. I’d also like to work with Danielle again – I think she is a real talent and has a huge future. We like the same kind of shows and often promise each other we will do this or that show so hopefully one day, one of them will stick.

Are there any long-term ambitions that you have either to do with theatre or not?
I’d like to be able to travel with my work – direct a show abroad or maybe open Oz somewhere exotic. I’d like to develop and direct new musical theatre work, perhaps in new non-theatre spaces. And one day I will direct my own show at the Palladium. My non-theatre ambition is to do a back-flip. But I don’t hold out so much hope for that! I’d like to speak French and Italian fluently too.

Which is your favourite part of London that you like going to?
I love St James Park in the summer for a picnic.

What would your favourite meal be if taken out to dinner?
My favourite place to eat is Food for Thought on Neal Street – the most delicious veggie food in London. I also love having afternoon tea and cake at somewhere like Sketch or Liberty’s. Does that count – cake for dinner?

What is your favourite musical & favourite film?
My favourite musicals – a long list. Literally anything by William Finn, he is a genius. But I was brought up on the classics so will always have a piece of my heart saved for Carousel, West Side Story and Annie. I think my favourite film is Annie. Is that awful? Trying to put across a serious director-type image – um – I like spy and CIA movies. If I wasn’t a director I’d like to work as an international spy!

If you won a million pounds what would you spend the money on?
I’d take all my favourite people to The Caribbean for two weeks and spend the whole lot on rum punch and mangoes.

Could you enlighten me about your partner?
My partner James Whiteside is a lighting designer and we live together in South London. In fact, we met through a mutual friend, Morgan, who was my designer on SIX WOMEN. James and I couldn’t be more different from each other. We’ve worked together a couple of times, quite successfully in fact, probably because he isn’t afraid to tell me to shut up when I am being a pain. His work is beautiful and I really admire him professionally as well as personally.

Do you have a favourite pet at home?
I have a cat called Oscar (named after the character in SWEET CHARITY which I was resident director on when we rescued him) who is sitting on my hands as I type this.

Any parts of the world that you would like to go to or have been to?
My favourite place in the world is Tobago, and specifically Canoe Bay beach. It’s the most beautiful, relaxing and unspoilt place to really wind down. I’ve been twice and it really is the best place in the whole of the world. Second on the list is Venice. And third, much closer to home, Brighton!

Anything else you might like to add?
Listen to the song MOVE ON from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE – it will give you a complete set of instructions for life if you work in theatre (and even if you don’t!)

Follow Kate Golledge on Twitter @kategolledge

Editor Neil Cheesman – follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

2010 – 2011 Resident Director, The Wizard of Oz, The Really Useful Group, London Palladium
2010 Resident Director, Sweet Charity, Theatre Royal Haymarket
2010 Resident Director, Educating Rita/ Shirley Valentine,  Sonia Friedman/ Chocolate Factory, Trafalgar Studios
2010 Director, Footloose, Arts Educational Schools
2010 Director, Homemade Fusion – the music of Kooman and Dimond, Christopher D. Clegg Productions, Ambassadors Theatre
2010 Assistant Director, The Wizard of Oz (Workshop),  Really Useful Group
2010 Assistant Director, Educating Rita, Menier Chocolate Factory
2010 Director, Daisy Pulls it Off, Lost Theatre Company
2009 Assistant Director, Sweet Charity, Menier Chocolate Factory
2009 Director – Finalist in JMK Trust Award, The Crucible,  www.jmktrust.org
2009 Director, Princess Ida, Arts Educational Schools
2009 Director, Carmen, Opera Loki – France
2009 Director, A Hollywood Party, Trinity College of Music, Blackheath Halls
2008 Director, Film/TV   Born Yesterday,  www.bornyesterday.tillyvision.co.uk
2008 Assistant Director, Salome, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
2008 Director, Betwixt!, The Ambassadors Theatre, The Kings Head Theatre
2007 Staff Director, Bridgetower – a fable of 1807, English Touring Opera, National Tour
2006 – 2007 Assistant Director, Daddy Cool, Daddy Cool Theatre Productions, Shaftesbury Theatre
2007 Director, Sweethearts, Finborough Theatre, The Finborough Theatre
2005 Director, Be the Star You Are, Young Vic Theatre
2005 Co-ordinator of ensemble, Julius Caesar, Barbican/Young Vic, Barbican Theatre
2005 Assistant Director, Get Carter, Red Shift Theatre Company, UK Tour and Greenwich Theatre
2004 Assistant Director, The Doorway Project, Young Vic Theatre
2002 Director, Six Women with Brain Death, National Student Theatre Company, Pleasance, Edinburgh

Updated 11th October 2014