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Interview Rupert Goold

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As artistic director of Northampton's Royal and Derngate, Rupert Goold was credited with putting the regional theatre on the map nationally. In 2005, he was appointed artistic director of Oxford Stage Company, which he relaunched as Headlong Theatre, with acclaimed productions including Rough Crossings, Faustus, Paradise Lost and Angels in America.

Goold's freelance credits have included The Tempest starring Patrick Stewart for the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Glass Menagerie with Jessica Lange in the West End and Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart again and Goold's wife Kate Fleetwood, which, after success in Chichester, the West End and New York, is now transferring to Broadway. Amongst its many awards to date, Macbeth won Goold Best Director gongs at this year's Evening Standard, Critics' Circle and Laurence Olivier Awards.

Goold's future productions include two more Headlong productions - a new adaptation of Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, opening at Chichester in July, and King Lear, with Pete Postlethwaite in the title role, opening in Liverpool in November - and opening at the West End's Theatre Royal Drury Lane next January, Cameron Mackintosh's revival of Oliver!, which will mark the director's musical debut.

You've won a hat trick of Best Director awards for Macbeth. What does that mean to you?

Winning those awards doesn't mean I'm actually the "best director". That's crazy: Simon McBurney is a genius and he didn't even get nominated. But, yes, it's great to win. I know it's a high watermark in my career in terms of recognition. And it makes me feel that I can take more risks now - not that my work is particularly safe. In early reviews, I was often accused of being "gimmicky". It can be difficult to take risks because we reward conservatism. But if I hadn't taken those risks when I was starting out and learnt from them - including, admittedly, some failures - I wouldn't have gone anywhere near doing what we did with Macbeth.

Why do you say conservatism is rewarded?

Because for 100 years now theatre has been in fear of dying, a lot of classical theatre champions worry that Shaw, Rattigan, Coward or Shakespeare will somehow be betrayed if people muck around with them. It may not always work but it's totally valid to try something new, and yet there's so much indignation.

But do classics need to be reinvented?

My thinking came from spending a lot of time in regional theatre, where the assumption that it's less sophisticated is in some ways true because audiences are less theatre literate. When I was running Northampton, I felt we had to go the extra mile to get people interested. With Shakespeare, I always try to get in touch with what shocked in the Jacobean period and find a correlative in the modern world. Having done a lot of research withMacbeth, it's clear that what the witches represented in Shakespeare's day was genuinely terrifying: some kind of fusion of what we'd now associate with the war on terror but also the apocalypse. You're not going to get that sense if you just show three crones wearing false noses.

Is the New Directions Award, launched by Headlong and the Gate Theatre, part of that thinking?

That's come out of the work I've done with Ben Power, in trying to make a radical intervention into an existing text, like we did with Faustus. Architecturally, it's the equivalent of the Louvre, where you have a period building with this glass pyramid



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