The scaffolding has gone and the countdown has begun to the reopening of the Bush Theatre after a £4.3million rebuild which has transformed the venue alongside Shepherds Bush Market in Uxbridge Road.
In mid-March the arts centre – which is financially supported by Hammersmith & Fulham Council – bursts into life again with a full programme in the main 180-seat theatre and the new-look studio.
The year-long revamp of the former library building is over. With the finishing touches being given to the building the Bush is set to relaunch on 18 March with a week-long housewarming celebrating the diversity of the Shepherds Bush area.
The major refurbishment was made possible by £1m of funding from H&F Council – as well as £2.5m from Arts Council England and donations from generous individuals, trusts and foundations.
“This is a very exciting time for the arts in Hammersmith & Fulham,” said Cllr Andrew Jones, H&F Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration.
The Bush Theatre redevelopment is based around artistic director Madani Younis’ vision for a theatre reflecting the diversity of London today.
The revamped building is more sustainable and fully accessible, with a new entrance, front-of-house area and exterior garden terrace.
The transformation also adds a workshop for scenery construction, new dressing rooms, a flexible studio and rehearsal spaces.
The new season at the Bush includes Black Lives, Black Words, which runs from 23-25 March, and which includes new works by Winsome Pinnock and Rachel De-Lahay exploring the question ‘Do black lives matter today?’
There will also be talks, performances and music inspired by the theatre’s associate artists and emerging writers’ group, including recitals by poet Anthony Anaxagorou.
It starts with Guards at the Taj, written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph and directed by Jamie Lloyd, a dark comedy about beauty, privilege and access to art which opens on 7 April.
While the play We’re Here, by Barney Norris, directed by Alice Hamilton, will have the honour of being the first show in the redesigned 70-seat studio space. Opening on 26 April it tells the tale of Carol and Eddie, former lovers who reunite on the south coast.
The new season also includes three new commissions, three world premieres, two European premieres and a production that will then tour the UK. Half the programme comes from BAMER (Black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee) writers.
Later in the year, audiences can enjoy HIR, written by Taylor Mac and directed by Nadia Fall (who directed The Maids at the Lyric) which opens on 15 June.
Then, at the end of July, the play Nassim comes to the studio, written and performed by Nassim Soleimanpour and directed by Omar Elerian. Unrehearsed and spontaneous, it features a sealed envelope, with the actor reading the script inside for the first time.
The studio hosts Ramona Tells Jim, by Sophie Wu, in September; a play written by the first graduate of the Bush’s emerging writers’ group, which was launched in 2015.
Then the main theatre space presents a new comedy, Of Kith and Kin, written by Chris Thompson and directed by Robert Hastie, from 18 October, exploring the meaning of family in the 21st century. The pair have previously collaborated on a show at the Finborough Theatre.
Opportunities to get involved
If you’d like to have a closer look at the revamped theatre, Shepherds Bush residents can join tours of the building on 18, 20 and 22 March.
The Bush Theatre began in 1972, in a hot, cramped space above a Shepherds Bush Green pub, before moving in 2012 to its new home around the corner in Uxbridge Road. Over the years it has won more than 100 awards, and developed a reputation for innovative and sometimes controversial productions.
Cllr Jones added: “It’s great that the Bush Theatre is giving opportunities for so many to become involved in this vibrant performing space.
“We want the arts to help drive a dynamic local economy while making H&F a leading centre for art and culture in London.”
Ticket prices at the Bush Theatre are kept deliberately low to allow more local people to enjoy shows.
A new feature is ‘Count Me In’ tickets, which are unreserved seats at £10, allocated on the day of performance. Senior citizens, students, disabled and unemployed patrons all qualify for concessions, while area residents get £2.50 off standard prices. Otherwise tickets start at £20 in the Theatre and £10 in the Studio and increase incrementally dependent on demand.
The box office is 020 8743 5050, while tickets can also be booked in person or on the Bush Theatre website.