London’s Bush Theatre is hoping to continue punching above its weight with a major redevelopment of its site while a new season of work welcomes a rematch of the knockout boxing drama The Royale.
The Bush’s artistic director Madani Younis outlined the scheme on Tuesday. There will be a new studio theatre giving the venue a second space; improved and upgraded backstage facilities for artists; it will become fully accessible across all areas and increase its sustainability.
Building work will mean that its new season of work will go walkabout at sites around the area. Melissa Bubnic’s Boys Will Be Boys will be staged at Bush Hall; This Place We Know will pitch up in found spaces along Uxbridge Road; The Neighbourhood Project will really be set in the ‘hood, at homes and streets in Shepherd’s Bush and a return match for The Royale will be held at The Tabernacle.
In March, as part of Madani Younis’ aim to create a true community theatre, the Bush will undergo a major redevelopment of its building. The scheme is set to cost £4m which includes the staging of its off-site programme.
The spring season sees the première of Boys Will Be Boys, about women trying to make their mark in the male-dominated world of the city, and the first co-production between the Bush Theatre and Headlong.
This Place We Know is a series of plays performed along the iconic and chaotic Uxbridge Road and featuring new, and established, talent from the Bush Theatre’s history.
And there is a revival of The Royale, the critically and publicly acclaimed play based on the story of the first African-American heavyweight champion of the world (read Stage Review’s verdict bit.ly/1LNbSzS).
The redevelopment will unlock the potential of the Old Library: increasing the capacity of the theatre and creating a new studio theatre space. It will also provide much better facilities with nearly 50 per cent more space in the bars and café areas, and a revamp of the backstage areas.
Madani Younis said: “While we are incredibly proud to be redeveloping our theatre for the next generation, a theatre should not be defined by its walls – which is why we want to go beyond them.
“We have the privilege of being at the heart of one of the most diverse places in the country, and at a cultural crossroads of everything that it is to live in London today. We want to create a building that embraces this, and work that celebrates this.
“It’s my hope that 2016 is not just remembered as the year that the Old Library ‘had some building work done’. I want this to be remembered as the year where Uxbridge Road became our stage, where we met new audiences, and where we discovered the voices whose work will form the bedrock of British Theatre for years to come.
“All too often, theatre in this country doesn’t reflect the culture of this country. By the end of this year, I hope that we can say with pride that this theatre truly represents the culture of the Uxbridge Road.”
Steve Tompkins, director of architects Haworth Tompkins, said: “We helped the Bush Theatre move in to its new home in 2010 and have been happily accompanying this brilliant, important theatre on its journey ever since.
“This phase of work should open up a whole new set of theatrical and communal possibilities for a theatre that has always punched above its weight.”
Into the Bush before the builders move in is Right Now, a co-production between the Bush Theatre, Traverse theatre Company and Theatre Royal Bath Ustinov Studio and starring Maureen Beattie, Sean Biggerstaff, Lindsey Campbell, Dyfan Dwyfor and Guy Williams.
Right Now will be directed by former RSC artistic director Michael Boyd, who said: “Our challenge to do justice to this heart-breaking, hilarious and disturbing play begins today, and I couldn’t feel better equipped than with this brilliant dare-devil cast.”
Written by Catherine-Anne Toupin and translated by Chris Campbell, Right Now is a disquieting exploration of one woman’s crisis and darkest desires, walking a delicate line between playful laughter and deep trauma, teasing and thrilling audiences from beginning to end.
As Alice and Ben settle into their beautiful new flat they realise that the family across the hall hope to be more than just good neighbours. Soon, Juliette, Giles, and their son Francis are wearing out the welcome mat; suggesting drinks, hors d’oeuvres and dancing. Things begin to heat up as innocent invitations lead to passionate encounters and unsettling revelations.
Right Now runs at the Bush Theatre from March 23-April 16.