Exclusive interview with our Assistant Artistic Director James Albrecht

April 3, 2012

Here at St. James Theatre HQ we have been lucky enough to grab ten minutes of our Assistant Artistic Director, James Albrecht’s time. We asked him how and why he got involved with St. James Theatre and the effect he sees our new theatre having on London’s theatre scene. As you can see, we have also included a fantastic shot of James on the building site of the theatre, complete with site plans and a script!

How did you get involved with St. James Theatre?

My background is as an actor and director. In 2008 I worked with David Gilmore as his assistant on the revival of the original National Theatre/ATG production of Noises Off in which I had played Garry Lejeune back in 2003. Happily David and I worked very well together and when he was appointed Artistic Director of the St James Theatre, he suggested me as his assistant. I was not actively looking for a job within a building, but the prospect of working with David on a new theatre venue was too enticing to turn down and the role seemed a natural enough step from directing.

Why are you excited for its opening in September 2012?

The opportunity to be a part of any operation from the ground up is exciting. A brand new theatre in central London is little short of a once in a generation occurrence, so to be there as the building takes shape and the first season comes together is a real thrill.

The challenge of finding or creating suitable quality work for both spaces and establishing a reputation that builds audience loyalty is no easy task. The fact that we are attempting this without a subsidy is possibly foolhardy but certainly a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit in these austere times. And yet the buzz is tangible. Even though the building is still hard hat territory, the countless producers, actors, directors and creatives that we have walked around the emerging structure have audibly gasped when presented with a new beautifully formed soon to be working theatre space. More and more people are making contact as they learn of our existence with projects they are keen to present at the St James.

The pace of the build is speeding up all the time as the theatres, bars and restaurant begin to emerge from behind the scaffolding, spaces are taking shape as plasterboard is installed over brick work and dark wood cladding is mounted on the theatre walls. Of course, it is actors on stage, paying punters in the audience and people enjoying the bar and restaurant that will breathe life into the St James Theatre, and that very exciting moment is only a few months away at the end of September.

What effect will St. James Theatre have on London’s theatre scene?

On so many levels the St James is offering something genuinely new to the London arts scene. The West End and environs is desperately short of small to medium sized theatres and the St James promises to be a showcase venue for quality theatre that currently has no natural home in central London, be it transfers of the best regional work or commercially produced shows that need a stepping stone before risking a full West End run. We are an Off West End theatre in the Off Broadway tradition producing our own work as well as building close relationships with independent producers both here and abroad.

The studio space will provide an unusually well equipped and comfortable environment for comedy, jazz and cabaret as well as small scale theatre. Jazz and cabaret in particular are not overwhelmed with choice when it comes to high quality venues in London. But the St James is more than two performance spaces, it is a high end arts venue for the 21st century on 4 floors with two bars, and a restaurant, a building that will be open for food, drink, and a wide variety of entertainment from 8am to 11.30pm 7 days a week. I can’t wait.

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