The Bush Theatre re-opens after a year-long, £4.3 Mn major redevelopment

East exterior view down Uxbridge Road_2. Bush Theatre reopens. Photographer Philip Vile.

East exterior view down Uxbridge Road_2. Bush Theatre reopens. Photographer Philip Vile.

The Bush Theatre reopens this week following the biggest capital project in the theatre’s history. The £4.3million, year-long revitalisation of the venue by award-winning architects Haworth Tompkins has turned an old library built at the turn of the 20th Century into a fully accessible, modernised cultural building.

Upon re-opening, the new building will be more sustainable and entirely accessible, with a new entrance, front-of-house area and exterior garden terrace to the main street.  A new studio space and attic rehearsal room will allow the Bush to work with a further 200 artists each year and allow over 50% increase in produced, co-produced and commissioned productions.  This is a remarkable growth for the theatre since moving from above a pub on Shepherd’s Bush Green in 2011.

Madani Younis, Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre said:

“Following this landmark capital project, we couldn’t be more excited to re-open our building to the world. We’re looking forward to welcoming audiences old and new to this incredible space. It was important to me that we re-open with a week of celebrations that embrace the diversity of the world we live in.  ‘Black Lives, Black Words’ is a bold statement about one of the most important movements of our time: #BlackLivesMatter. This, followed by Rajiv Joseph’s award-winning ‘Guards at the Taj’ directed by Jamie Lloyd, sets the tone of the stories we want to tell in our beautiful new home.”

Steve Tompkins, Director of Haworth Tompkins, said:

“Working with the Bush Theatre team over the past few years has been a real pleasure. It has been particularly interesting for us to work with successive artistic directors in evolving the theatre’s physical identity to meet changing needs and priorities. We’re looking forward to the building coming back to life as audiences, artists and staff make themselves at home again.”

The Bush redevelopment has been driven by the aim of realising Artistic Director Madani Younis’ vision for a theatre that reflects the diversity and vibrancy of London today.  The new building will nurture, develop and showcase the best of new artists and their work; reflecting local, national and international communities and encouraging the diversification of artists and artistic leadership in the UK.  The new studio will become a home for emerging artists and producers including associate artists Milk Presents, Deafinitely Theatre and ANTLER.  They will work alongside three Project 2036 practitioners (a programme that will offer a Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee playwright, director and producer a £10,000 bursary each year) and the Bush’s Emerging Writers’ Group.

Two local organisations will also join the Bush as Community Associate Companies where they will form a long-term collaborative, creative relationship with the theatre and work closely with artists to create a centre piece project.  Nubian Life Resource Centre, a care provider for African and Caribbean older people living with complex health conditions, will work with Cressida Brown, Artistic Director of political theatre company Offstage Theatre.  Shepherds Bush Families Project, an organisation who work with families in housing need, will work with physical theatre ensemble Tangled Feet.

COMING UP AT THE BUSH THEATRE…

Black Lives, Black Words, Theatre, 23 – 25 March
The new building will be launched by a week of celebrations from 18 March.  At the heart of this is Black Lives, Black Words, a series of short plays in the main theatre responding to the question ‘Do black lives matter today?’  Initiated by award-winning American playwright Reginald Edmund, the international project has explored the black diaspora’s experiences in some of the largest multicultural cities in the world, Chicago, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Baltimore and London.

The Bush Theatre will contribute four new commissions by black British writers to the Black Lives, Black Words canon.  These are: The Interrogation of Sandra Bland by Mojisola Adebayo, My White Best Friend by Rachel De-Lahay, The Principles of Cartography by Winsome Pinnock and Womb by Somalia Seaton. The programme will also include previously performed pieces by American writers: #Matter by Idris Goodwin and The Bitter Earth by Harrison David Rivers.  The plays will be performed by actors and, in the spirit of protest, most of the audience will stand and move with the performance.  Poet Anthony Anaxagorou will perform his poems If I Told You, This is not a Poem and Master’s Revenge each night.  An anthology of all the works performed as well as a select number from the existing Black Lives, Black Words canon will be published by Oberon Books and edited by Reginald Edmund.

Guards at the Taj, Theatre, 7 April – 20 May, Press Night 12 April
Jamie Lloyd directs the European premiere of Guards at the Taj, written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph and designed by Soutra GilmourDanny Ashok will play Humayun and Darren Kuppan will play Babur.  Guards at the Taj takes an enduring legend about the Taj Mahal and prompts audiences to explore questions about art, privilege and duty. The play premiered at the Atlantic Theater in New York to great acclaim in 2015 and is the recipient of both the Obie Award for Best New American Play and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play.

A Bush Theatre, Up In Arms and Farnham Maltings co-production
While We’re Here, Studio, 26 April – 27 May
The world premiere of Barney NorrisWhile We’re Here directed by Alice Hamilton will open the new Bush Theatre Studio.  Co-Directors of the multi award-winning touring company Up In Arms, Norris and Hamilton last collaborated at the Bush on the critically acclaimed Visitors, for which Norris won the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright. The play will be performed by Tessa Peake-Jones and Andrew French.

Hir, Theatre, 15 June – 22 July, Press Night 20 June
This explosive play by Taylor Mac (24-Decade History of Popular Music) one of America’s most dynamic and distinctive voices comes to London in a new production by Nadia Fall (Disgraced). Mac, an artist at the forefront of alternative responses to American culture, subverts all notions of the modern American family in this clash of wild absurdity and stark realism.

Nassim, Studio, 24 – 29 July
Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour returns to the Bush with an audacious theatrical experiment that explores the power of language to unite us in unknown, uncertain times.  Directed by Bush Associate Director Omar Elerian, Nassim will feature the playwright himself.

Ramona Tells Jim, Studio, 20 September – 21 October
Sophie Wu (Kick Ass, Fresh Meat) will be the first graduate of the Bush’s Emerging Writers’ Group, which launched in 2015, to have a full commission produced at the Bush, with the premiere of Ramona Tells Jim which will be directed by Mel Hillyard.

A Bush Theatre and Sheffield Theatres co-production
Of Kith and Kin,Theatre,18 October – 25 November, Press Night 20 October
Sheffield Theatres Artistic Director Robert Hastie (My Night With Reg, Splendour) directs this gripping new comedy by Chris Thompson (Albion).  The pair previously collaborated on Carthage at the Finborough Theatre.  Of Kith and Kin, a Bush Theatre and Sheffield Theatres co-production, poses the question what does family mean in the 21st century?