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It’s probably a little-known fact that the Blue Elephant is the only theatre in Camberwell, writes Yvonne Gardon…
Artistic director Jasmine Cullingford says the theatre, located in the middle of a large residential estate, is a theatrical resource for people living in Southwark and south London generally.
She says: “We are Southwark Council-funded, so are keen to get in local audiences who can get a discount. The people who surround us here are very important to us. “They can literally step out of their front door and into the theatre, without the need for transport. We are inclusive in the broadest sense of the word and want people to know they don’t have to cross the river to see good quality theatre”
Jasmine admits it has been a slow process to bring their vision to fruition of producing shows in-house. She says “I just want to carry on concentrating on creating great non-conventional work, which is often neglected and not put on elsewhere.”
She says the Blue Elephant, which also hosts art exhibitions, remains true to it’s philosophy of staging brave, non-commerical and thought-provoking theatre. She adds: “We want to be different. This is expressed more by our approach than by what work we put on. For example we stage traditional classics in a radical way”
The 50-seater theatre holds free workshops in Southwark schools and holiday clubs and staged its first community play earlier this year, which was a great success.
Although the theatre, which also stages contemporary dance, puts a lot of emphasis on local playwrights’ work, quality is of the essence. Jasmine said: ‘Nearly every show we do has a Southwark base. We do want to support local writers, but the quality of the work always comes first.
“I have always loved theatre, but never dreamed I would end up running one. I love my job.”
Jasmine comes from a PR and marketing background, which enables her to maintain a sense of realism about the productions. She explains: “Not having an artistic background helps, because it means I can see the shows more form an audience perspective.
“I give honest feedback based on my love of theatre and the artists find that really refreshing.” “I would describe the work we do as weird, wonderful and cutting edge, but with a serious core at it’s heart.”