The Bush is back! Following a £4.3million, year-long revitalization, the Bush Theatre will officially reopen today (18th March) and I was given a guided tour of the impressive new facilities by Artistic Director Madani Younis before the grand unveiling, writes Nicky Sweetland.
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, which promises to be the hub of the community in Shepherd’s Bush for years to come.
The extensive redevelopment includes a commitment to nurturing new talent, with hot desk spaces for associates, a writing room, which is available for rent, a brand new attic rehearsal room and a studio space, which 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.
The completed project is a remarkable achievement for the theatre, which began life as a performance space above a pub on Shepherd’s Bush Green in 2011. The theatre now stands on Uxbridge Road, London’s longest thoroughfare and the most diverse street in Europe for the number of different languages spoken.
The 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. He told us, “The brief to the architect was to create a building that was open, porous and plural and I think this building now allows us to be all of those things.”
During the year-long construction, Madani, along with the company, took the show on the road and performed in found spaces in and around Shepherd’s Bush.
One of the venues was the Nubian Life Resource Centre, a care provider for African and Caribbean older people living with complex health conditions. The Loftus Road centre, will become an Associate Company of the Bush and form a long-term collaborative, creative relationship with the theatre, working closely with artists to create a centre piece project.
The Shepherds Bush Families Project, an organisation who work with families in housing need, will also become an associate company and will work with physical theatre ensemble Tangled Feet.
Madoni said, “I think my job is to shorten that gap between art and life; that is my role and through that, one can agitate and entertain. As a kid growing up in London it was so difficult to walk into a building and see myself reflected anywhere in that building. It’s now 2017 and in less than 20 years half of all young people in our city will be of dual heritage. My fear is not that these buildings won’t exist in another 20 years but that they will become and enclave of a chosen few. The decisions I make today and others who share a similar mind set to my own, will hopefully ensure that these buildings will belong to everyone.”
The Bush Theatre will be open to public from 10am everyday and you’ll be able to get a reasonably priced meal, while you peruse the play text library or just enjoy the sunshine from the newly landscaped garden area.
Some of the beloved features of the building have been preserved-recycled materials are used to great effect in the bar area and extracts from scripts have been reinstated onto the toilet cubicles-with the interior design reflecting both the contemporary and traditional aspects of the theatre.
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.
Madoni 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.”
You can find out further details about what’s on at the Bush Theatre from their website https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk