The Bush Theatre reopens this Saturday 18th March, 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.
To celebrate the opening of the new sustainable and entirely accessible building, will be a production of Black Lives, Black Words. Four of the plays are bold new British plays, and two tie us into the American canon. Running for only three days – 23-25 March, all six plays will be performed alongside spoken word interludes each night.
Madani Younis, Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre said of the Bush Theatre’s reopening in the heart of Shepherd’s Bush:
“It was a conscious choice to stay in West London. We are the only cultural building along this road that is offering art. The Uxbridge Road is the longest road in London and the most diverse in the whole of Europe for the number of languages spoken down it. This area has some of the highest levels of social depravation in the country, shoulder to shoulder with one of the highest proportion of 1 million pound plus houses in the entire country. It’s a community of extremes, yet this community has always found a way of being. I want to make work that reflects the Uxbridge Road. It’s our job to ensure that we break down those barriers [with] those men and women who have thought that these kinds of cultural spaces aren’t for them.
“We have two associate community companies – Nubian Life and Shepherd’s Bush family project that have the same standing as our associate companies. They will produce work in this building, they will also be part of our programming decisions and the life of this building.”
Younis went on to explain the significance of opening the theatre with this Black Lives, Black Words:
“The same night of Brexit the polish centre in Hammersmith was dogged with graffiti we saw a 200% rise in racist attacks in Shepherd’s Bush. My ambition is to provoke culture. By provoking culture, we ultimately reveal our true humanity to each other. In the hope that we understand each other in new ways. Black Lives, Black Words was absolutely at the heart of that thinking.”
The four British plays which make up Black Lives, Black Words are:
The Interrogation of Sandra Bland (Purple) by Mojisola Adebayo
On 10 July 2015, Sandra Bland, a 28 year old black woman from Naperville, Illinois, was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. Her initial objections escalated into her detainment by a white, male police officer. Three days later she was found hanged in her cell.
My White Best Friend (Purple) by Rachel De-Lahay
“How could you ever put your white best friend on stage and remind them that they’re part of the problem? If you love them? If you never want anyone to feel for even a moment how you feel living in this world everyday.”
The Principles of Cartography (Purple) by Winsome Pinnock
At his desk, with his maps, Cliff owns the streets. Names and places, leylines and shortcuts and secret histories. But outside, where the police prowl – hunting for signs of dissent, for young black faces – it’s a very different story.
Womb (Purple) by Somalia Seaton
A week has passed since anti Trump riots spread across England and Nkrumah’s face is still swollen. He’s not eating and doesn’t want to talk. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. No point pressing charges.
The two American Plays which are also UK Premieres:
This Bitter Earth
After his white partner, a vocal #blacklivesmatter activist, is brutally attacked, Jesse, a black man, is forced to confront his own political apathy. In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, George Zimmerman’s acquittal, and tragedies in Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, The Twin Cities and Cleveland, what’s the cost of standing on the side lines?
Kim and Cole are two progressive, educated young adults. They grew up together. But Kim is black and Cole is white. As the black lives matter protests explode around them they conflict over matter and what matters. “What happens to matter split? Does it explode and decimate millions of bodies of colour? And whose hands split that matter? What we are talking about are black lives split, shaken until they become bombs.”
Black Lives, Black Words is a shared international project initiated by Chicago poet and playwright Reginald Edmunds in 2015. It visited the Bush in two previous incarnations developed by Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway for Artistic Directors of the Future.
To book tickets to Black Lives, Black Words go to the Bush Theatre website.