Jeremy Goldstein brings London theatre to the Gold Coast
London theatre producer, writer and performer Jeremy Goldstein travelled to the Gold Coast for the first time to do research for his project in Festival 2018. We caught up with him to chat about life in London and his impression of the arts community on the coast.
‘The breadth and diversity of the Gold Coast’s artist community took me by surprise, and with the Arts Centre Gold Coast expanding and new venues opening up across the city, I feel the Gold Coast is on the cusp of something new and profound, and that’s a terrifically exciting place to be.’
You now live in London, but also have roots in Australia. How do you describe where you’re from?
I’m originally from Manchester, I describe myself as an East End Aussie, as not only did I grow up in Sydney but my roots are in the East End of London. From as far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated by London so in 1994 I moved there and I’ve lived here ever since. I return to Australia at least once a year to visit my family who now live in Brisbane.
Can you tell us a bit about your theatre work in London?
I’m largely known as a political theatre producer and the founder and director of London Artists Projects (LAP). In 2015, after 25 years work I transitioned from producer to writer and performer. Now I continue to produce the work of artists I admire, but I also create and perform in my own shows. I’m therefore in this rather curious position of being an established producer and emerging artist at the age of 47. It feels wonderfully empowering to be doing new things at an age when most people settle, but I’m curious and adventurous by nature, and I like to exist beyond my comfort zone.
What projects are you most well-known for?
My most famous project is probably ‘Carnesky’s Ghost Train’ which we built as an authentic Victorian ghost train ride. It opened in London in 2004 and ran for over 10 years. The original production was a multi-media extravaganza with magic by the Harry Potter illusionist Paul Kieve and featured live performers including the pop star Paloma Faith.
I have a long and successful working relationship with New York’s queen of the underground and former Andy Warhol Factory Superstar Penny Arcade. I revived her infamous sex and censorship show ‘Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!’, and presented it as the antidote to the London Olympics in 2012. It was a smash hit and in the aftermath I was named in Time Out as one of the 100 most influential people in UK culture for ‘proving political theatre can be fun and outrageous’. It can take at least 20 years to carve out your niche as a producer, so it was great to be recognised in this context.
You mentioned that you had recently transitioned to writer and performer, can you describe some of the projects you’re working on?
As writer and performer, I have created two new projects inspired by the philosophical and political beliefs of Nobel Prize winning playwright Harold Pinter and his Hackney Gang of which my late father, Mick was a member. I have a new play called 'Spider Love', and a major international participatory performance platform called 'The Truth to Power Café'.
You recently spent a few weeks doing research on the Gold Coast for your project in Festival 2018. What were your initial impressions of the place?
I had never been to the Gold Coast until this year but growing up in Sydney I had formed this image of it in my head as a holiday fun park by the beach. In some respects, I wasn’t far off as having spent close to 9 weeks there this year, I was able to see for myself the beach culture which I love, and the ambitious nature of the city and its people reflected in its extraordinary high rise.
There’s a lot more to the city than the beach but the combination of beach, the astonishing light, high rise and super friendly people made me feel as if I was in Brazil. When I stood on the terrace at Gold Coast Arts Centre for the first time and admired the view, I felt as if I was in Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paulo. You don’t get that in London.
On your trip did you meet many local artists? How do you think an international event like the Commonwealth Games will impact on the Gold Coast’s creative industry?
During my visit, I was lucky to meet a number of local artists who like me are also taking part in Festival 2018. It was really exciting to see the Gold Coast investing so heavily in their work and in the city’s burgeoning creative industries. Next year the Gold Coast is going to attract some of the brightest people working in the world today and I don’t just mean athletes. I’m talking about artists, thinkers, cultural commentators, entrepreneurs, movers and shakers, and generally people who like to make things happen and be in the thick of it.
The beach is spectacular but in order to diversify and assume its rightful place as an international destination city in its own right, we need to ensure the city continues to build up and foster a strong arts and cultural scene post Games, so I think we should look at the Games as an opportunity to start something new. In some respects, what comes next will be even more important than the Games.
Finally, on your travels around the Gold Coast was there a particular place that impressed you?
I was especially moved by the regular Young Artist Salons at the Gold Coast Arts Centre. Young artists need to be nurtured and encouraged, and to be surrounded by what I would call a sense of pragmatic optimism. I sure wish I had access to these Salons when I was starting out so these kinds of initiatives need to continue beyond the Games.
Jeremy’s project for Festival 2018 will be announced in early February. Subscribe to Festival 2018’s eNews to be the first to hear about it.