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Jason Golbourn

As part of the Shaftesbury Stories project, we’re releasing a weekly interview with someone who has played a role in our Theatre’s story.

This could be anyone – an audience member, a performer, a former or current staff member. We’d like to tell the stories of the people who have made our building what it is today.

If you’re interested in being interviewed for this project, please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.

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RENT

Featuring the original Broadway cast, RENT opened at the Shaftesbury in 1998. RENT broke box office records, with the Theatre taking £260,000 in a single week, and ran until the end of 1999.
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The third person in our series of interviews for the Shaftesbury Stories project is Jason Golbourn. Jason is the Stage Manager for our current production of & Juliet. He has worked at the Shaftesbury several other times during his career – for 125th Street and for Thoroughly Modern Millie.

 

Tell us about your favourite memory of the Shaftesbury Theatre.

I have so many lovely memories of the Shaftesbury Theatre. I will always remember the first day walking through Stage Door back in 2002. It was tremendously exciting as it was my first job post-college.  That was my first favourite memory – and the most recent was in 2019, looking out an empty auditorium filled with programmes just before I handed over the the house for & Juliet press night.

 

You’ve worked on three shows at the Shaftesbury – 125th Street, Thoroughly Modern Millie and & Juliet. What’s it like to come back to a Theatre you’ve worked in before?

It’s like coming home, as cliché as that sounds. The theatre has changed so much as a building. It’s warming to return to a theatre where you learned so much about working in the industry and about yourself as a person. The building may have changed but thankfully some of the Shaftesbury team have stayed the same, so not only do you have memories wherever you are look, you also have friendships and working relationships that help when you’re trying to mount the show.

The & JULIET Stage Management team
Jason with the company of Thoroughly Modern Millie
Shaftesbury Theatre fly floor

Could you tell us a bit about the challenges presented by those three different shows, and what you’ve enjoyed about all of them?

What a question.

My first job on 125th Street was on the crew, I was fresh out of college. The main challenge for me in that first job was trying not to hold up anyone or anything. I remember being sent to the grid above the stage to move a fly bar on my first day. I had never done it before and all I could think was “come on everyone is waiting for us” (thankfully I had someone with me who had done it before). I spent a lot of time on that show watching what the Stage Management did and how they worked. I took an awful lot away from that production and am very thankful for that job.

My first ever musical as an Assistant Stage Manager was on Thoroughly Modern Millie so that was a different challenge. As part of my role on the show I had to cover Automation and Sound as well as both Assistant Stage Manger roles. The challenge on the show was at any time (and if memory serves me) I would have to jump from one to another or at time combine tracks and roles.

Returning to the Shaftesbury as the Stage Manager after having previously worked on two other shows I knew in my head what some of the challenges might be. One of them – which all three shows had in common – was wing space!  It wasn’t only set pieces and large props I needed to think about, it was making sure the wings could accommodate cast members, wigs and costumes for quick changes and traffic with the amount of set we have on & Juliet.

 

Is there anything that you can tell us about what goes on backstage or in the wings of & Juliet that might surprise the audience?

For anyone that has seen & Juliet they will already know that we pack a lot in to what some people would call a small space. This means having the majority of our set and large props on storage motors in the wings above head height. Set is brought in on the motors during a certain song.

The off stage wing choreography and traffic for everyone that works backstage is very important and keeps us all safe.

 

Even though you work in a theatre all day, do you still enjoy going to the theatre for entertainment? When you’re watching a show, do you think you notice anything that an ordinary audience member might not?

I have to say I don’t get to see much theatre but when I do I always appreciate the full production values. I love an interesting set that has lots of texture etc. but unfortunately it takes time to switch off as sometimes you can definitely see a situation unfolding and I hold my breath hoping it resolves smoothly.

 

Our stage has seen many amazing performances over the last 109 years. Are there any shows that you wish you had seen, or would love to see again?

The first show I watched at the Shaftesbury is RENT. I would love to see that production again. Obviously 125th Street and Thoroughly Modern Millie, I would love to see Hairspray again.

I would have loved to have seen Tommy and Forbidden Planet.

 

Are you finding interesting ways to stay creative and entertained in isolation? Do you have any recommendations for people out there who are missing live performances?

Normally working in theatre we work six days a week so at the moment I’m basking in having time with my husband and enjoying our home. I’m staying occupied by trying to put together our show bible for & Juliet and answering questions from graduate students.

We are lucky that we live in an age where archive recordings can be watched. How amazing is it to be able to go online and see performances from a few years ago. So many recordings are available on the internet now, it may not be like the real thing but I’m sure these recordings will put a smile on your face until the lights are back on in theatres around the world.

 

On stage with the & JULIET set
Shaftesbury Theatre dressing rooms
Picture of the Shaftesbury Theatre
RENT at the Shaftesbury Theatre
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