Thursday, 29 September 2011

All the world is a stage, and everyone has their part to play...

Picking up where I left off regarding the new Bush Theatre home, here is my story of visiting the new space, seeing some of the changes already made and marvelling at all the exciting work in progress.

For anyone who went to Where's My Seat? back in July you will know that the gutting and refurbishing of the old Shepherd's Bush library was already under way and Bush Theatre had managed to create a temporary but very homely space for the production. It was for this reason that I was naively a little shocked by the tall order facing the Bush Theatre in keeping that sense of homeliness while also capturing important statement qualities associated to the theatre; unconventional, original, different or in Bush Theatre's own words "loud, sometimes angry, and always loving". And permanent. This is perhaps the most important raw material being poured into the new Bush Theatre's foundations, as I found last Monday when I was lucky enough to be on site (i.e. gate crashing) the signing of the new lease.

In a brief but heartfelt and effortlessly excellent speech the Bush Theatre's Artistic Director, Josie Rourke touched upon the unpredictable and at times uncertain history of the theatre and how this now contrasted with its future now. The new lease, which was signed last week, is for 125 years. As Josie eloquently put it the Bush Theatre has secured it's future like never before; it will literally outlive us all.

I was then treated to my own personal tour of the building, during which it became very clear that there is much work to do, yet with workmen still on site at 7pm on a Monday night it is all systems are go.

One of these works in progress is a ceiling mural by Antoni Malinowski who I was informed is based locally. In the deepest shade of navy blue the painting aims to create the shape of a dome in a central square section of the ceiling as you head towards the theatre space. It is a dramatic and dynamic, perfect for a theatre and there is a wall mural in the bar area to match. Needless to say these photos do not do it justice.

I was also struck by how much space there is. Having spent their early, teenage, young adult and even early middle age years in a confined space above a pub where actors had to access the stage via an external fire escape staircase, the Bush Theatre is now nearly spoilt for space with a vast backstage area, a rehearsal space, a writing room and office space all upstairs, which was where I found the two stray cats the Bush Theatre has adopted.

The auditorium or stage area also seems bigger than when I was there for Where's My Seat?, and that is because they have decided to sink the central stage area. It was explained to me that this was because it will keep more options open in terms of staging productions and the positioning of the audience to the performance and vice-versa. I liked it and found myself slightly enchanted by the space which has four structural pillars defining the corners of the stage it is reminiscent of an ancient Green or Roman amphitheatre, on a slightly smaller scale of course.

Yet the new Bush Theatre is about more than just plays. As much thought, detail and effort is going in to creating a usable and enjoyable cafe, bar and community area and an attractive garden to the right hand side of the theatre. Local businesses have been very forthcoming and supportive donating money and volunteers to help Bush Theatre make its own home and as per my recent post Bush Theatre would also welcome any local spare hands to help ensure their new home is ready for curtains up on 10th October 2011 when Sixty-Six Books opens.

Sixty-Six Books is more than just a play or a production. It is such a mammoth undertaking because it aims to deliver new dramatic interpretations of the 66 books of the New King James Bible featuring sixty-six different writers (including the likes of Billy Bragg, Carol Ann Duffy and Kate Mosse), 130 actors and 23 directors. These artists are from all corners of the globe and are a mixture of faiths and no faith. Sixty-Six Books will start and end with a 24 hour performance (yes you read correctly) of all 66 plays and there will also be other special extended shows as well as evening performances featuring "just" a handful of the books. Sixty-Six Books will also go "on tour" to Westminster Abbey for a 12 hour vigil performance on 21st October. For more information and to buy tickets you can search the performances by date, by the Bible book or by the writer.

The only thing I can compare Bush Theatre to as they embark on building and moving into a new home while simultaneously preparing for Sixty-Six Books, is to a newly wed couple on Grand Designs who are building their dream home and the wife is about to give birth to sextuplets. And we all know Kevin McCloud would have something admirable yet subtly scathing to say about that.

Yet there's no criticism from me. I believe they can do it. After spending the evening in their company and toasting their new lease I can confidently say the one thing the Bush Theatre has in its staff is an abundance of energy and passion and it's these qualities that will not only cement their new home together, but will also ensure Sixty-Six Books is a brave and successful kick-start to life in their new home.

Read more about a special book to mark their move from one corner of a Bush to another. I got to have a quick look at the book and it really is one to buy and enjoy if you're half as fascinated by the history of the Bush Theatre as I am.


  1. Hello! Love this behind the scenes glimpse of the Bush Theatre, especially that wall of post-it notes. And the cats! Great comparison to the newly wed couple as well, really nailed that feeling for me. :)

    And thank you so much for linking to my blog and saying such lovely things on your 'About the Bird' page. That was a nice unexpected surprise!

  2. Thank you for commenting Jayne! I am a big fan of your blog and ambition.

    Bird x