We caught up with the phenomenally talented director Kate Golledge to talk about her latest theatre production “Claus the Musical”. On show at The Lowry from 14th December 2022 through to 8th January 2023. An adaption of L.Frank Baum (1902) children’s classic The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus; Kate explains that she has been working alongside the writers to develop their adaption of the book into a theatre production. Ensuring that the story retains all the “Chistmassy charm” of the book, but also offering a story that speaks to a young contemporary audience.

Videographer credit: Ben Hewis

Key Inspirations and Styles

To bring Claus the Musical to life, Kate worked closely with Stewart J Charlesworth [designer] to create a world that was totally different to our own. In the original book, The Forest of Burzee is part of the land of Oz, she explains. Hence saw the challenge of taking a deep dive into creating their own mythology and ecosystem for the characters and how they live. Kate explains how they looked at art and architecture from when the book was written, alongside all of the depictions of Santa through the ages.

Projection Screen – Concept

This followed insightful walks through forests, leading to a joint agreement that both Stewart and herself wanted the world to feel organic, non-geographically specific, and not tied to any time period.

“We looked at fantasy, starting with Tolkien all the way through to League of Legends and Arcane. We then wrapped Lucinda (choreographer) and Aaron (lighting designer) into the conversation to discuss how to make it all fluid and joined together”.

Concept reference – Fireflies [Forest]
For Kate, when you’re directing, every single person in the room needs a little bit of you all the time, and fielding questions can sometimes be relentless. The director has to be constantly managing her own energy levels alongside making sure all the actors have what they need and facilitating communication between the team, some of who aren’t in the room. 

Meeting the cast for the first time was amazing, according to Kate. Recalling how they gathered to film a promo. Going onto point out that you could feel the warmth and excitement in the room, a truelly wonderful team. She highlights how in the rehearsal room she enjoys anything that is collaborative, “those moments when creatives from different departments keep adding details until you can’t tell where directing ends and choreography starts, or design ends and lighting begins”, she adds.

According to the Director, there is magic in mixing it all up and working cross-departmentally. With specific reference to a part of the production where Claus goes to the real world and sees humans for the first time. Whilst not seeking to offer any spoilers, Kate highlights that if it looks onstage like it does in the picture it is going to be “EPIC”.

Path into the Performing Arts

Kate Golledge always loved telling stories and making plays when she was very young – even before she could remember, she explains. Going onto to recall how her Mum took photos of her putting on shows with her dolls.

I was part of every school play and amateur dramatic club show that I could find from the age of about 11, and although my goals and ambitions have developed and changed, I’m still inspired to find new ways to tell stories, move and entertain people.

She explains that she was a very academic child who had aspirations to be a librarian. Totally fascinated with other worlds – historical, fantastical, geographical. Following her A Levels Kate went to LIPA in Liverpool to do a degree in Performing Arts. Humbly admitting how at this point she was assured of herself in taking a direction in acting. Life as it so happens had different plans, and it was at LIPA where she discovered directing.

Do I think qualifications are important – Kate explains that such a question is difficult to answer, as no one has ever asked to see the certificates. However she is adament in her belief that A Levels were paramount.  From English Literature, History, Theatre Studies and Music. All of these courses inspired her to keep learning about stories and how/ why they work, to research and understand how people lived, and how that connects to how we live now, to be able to peel back the layers of a piece and connect to its core.

“I think it’s important to be able to go backwards in preparing to direct a show – not just to look at how other musicals have done it, but to be able to dig deeply into all different aspects of the piece you’re working on”.

Kate recalls reading everything she could get her hands on, playscripts, screenplays, musical scores, articles, books – “I felt like I had found my world”. She explains that on graduating, she went onto work on the fringe, directing smaller scale musicals, with limited opportunity to assist at entry level. This led her to moving into Opera, which enabled her to get closer to working on musicals.

Honing a Creative Skillset

Kate explains that people management is a big part of what she does. In order to navigate this guantlet, Kate adopts a mindful approach to a working space. For the director, this looks like working hard and intensely, but with kindness and a sense of possibility, accepting suggestions and ideas from all sides, and regularly checking in with the company to make sure everyone feels safe and supported.

“I always make myself assume that nothing is finished – it takes the pressure off and means that we can all keep reaching forwards but without the expectation of perfection. It can always change, it can always get better”.

The director believes it’s vitally important to consume as much art of all mediums as you can. To work out what kind of work you enjoy, and what excites and motivates you. In her humble opinion, nothing beats being in a room getting it wrong until you learn to get it right (i.e. directing a five minute play will teach you about the craft of being a director much more than reading a book). She goes onto to explain the importance of learning about resilience, and to not be afraid of side hustles. To find your tribe – the people you trust to be honest with you and hold you to account. To identify your core values and live by them. Practice asking really specific questions. Set good boundaries for social media and try not to cancel holidays for work!

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