Chris Goode: Maverick theatre

Chris Goode: Maverick theatre

By Eleanor Turney 05/12/11

Playwright, poet and performer Chris Goode has been hailed by the Guardian as "British theatre's greatest maverick talent" – with experience of reworking Chekhov and Shakespeare, as well as performing in people's homes. He talks to Eleanor Turney about his creative process...

Tell us a bit about your background – what got you into theatre?

As a kid I wrote lots, I played music, but I never thought it could be my job – the idea seemed impossibly remote. And then, quite by accident, I acquired a literary agent after my first Edinburgh show, and the possibility was there. So I thought I’d be a playwright, but some of my imaginings were too complicated, so I got more into kinds of making that weren’t about scripts. That led to my appointment as Director of Camden People’s Theatre; I left in 2004, since when I’ve been freelance. I have a path, but not really a career.

You've been called a “leftfield” theatre maker. Tell us about your process – where do some of your ideas come from?

The process always begins in the same way: it starts in a room with some smart people and the will to create a space for a conversation. I usually have a hunch about something I want to explore… Everything after that depends on my collaborators, and the news, and the weather. 

You do lots of different things – is one more important to you than the others? How do you find a balance?

Writing and directing and performing and making music all exist on a continuum, they’re just different frames for thinking with. Directing and performing are almost identical. I often wish I was doing exactly what I’m not currently doing – but that’s more about my own restlessness.

Your blog is often quite strongly worded – how do your thoughts about issues/events feed into your work?

It’s not always easy to take strong political or artistic opinions and turn them into a process! But there’s definitely a constant imperative, especially at the moment, to use theatre as a place to create real liveable experiences of models for political and personal change. Theatre can have a crucial role in reimagining our social relations. What we do all day has never felt more important.

What advice do you have for young theatre makers?

Sharpen your curiosity about new ideas and experiences. Keep reading, keep listening, keep looking. Analyse everything: take it apart and see how it works. Always be kind in the work room. Only work with people who are smarter than you and don’t mind getting naked. Let your process be a place of romance, lightness and acceptance – but don’t be afraid to aspire to significance. Never stop being a young theatre maker.

Tell us about your writing and rehearsal process...

Writing tends to happen quite quickly after a long period of research, doubt, and mapping. As for rehearsal, increasingly I find I’m simply trying to create a congenial and exciting room to come into. As a director, once a piece is cast, often I don’t do much more than set the tone and hold the door open.

What are you currently working on? What's next?

I’m about to start work on a piece called GOD/HEAD, which will open at Ovalhouse in February. I’m really scared of it, for all kinds of reasons. That’s the first of (at least) three new shows that Chris Goode & Company will be making in 2012. Fun times.


Chris Goode's The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley is at Battersea Arts Centre, London, until 10 December 2011. Find out more.

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