Way back when in 2009, before libraries were seen as dispensable, the residents of Shepherds Bush were gifted a brand-spanking new, £2 million library in the Westfield shopping complex. What became of the old, beautiful building after the books were de-shelved and moved? Well not much until The Bush Theatre recently moved in. ‘Where’s my Seat’ is their brilliant first outing and your invitation to help shape its future.
It’s a night quite unlike your usual theatre experience. There is a play, three in fact, all written by a different Bush playwrights and each facing the challenge of shoehorning in props and stage directions chosen by the likes of Alan Ayckbourn and the National Theatre. Yet, tonight’s proceedings are not really about the plays, rather about the Bush Theatre’s new space.
In between each performance our compere, comedian Lucy Porter, asks us to explore the building, ambling from the backstage area, through the garden and up into the attic. What we find is a theatre in a state of becoming, a building stripped back to its bare bones, on the walls drawings of where shelves might go, holes circled and a note written beneath saying ‘fill in’. You can even find a small drawing of a box, and disconcertingly written beside it are the words ‘fire alarm sensor goes here’. The audience is also encouraged to write on the walls. Do we want reserved or unreserved seating? Do we want a hand dryer (a Dyson Airblade no less) or hand towels? Should the Bush do a musical? It’s a joy to wander about. The feedback is done in such a charming homemade manner that you can’t help but feel that you’re involved in the creation of this new space.
Each time we return to see a play the stage configuration has changed, a panting crew quickly switching the seating from Thrust, to In the Round and finally to End On. Deirdre Kinahan’s comic, ‘The Fingers of Faversham’, sees an overzealous director explore the homosexual compression with Wind of the Willows. In ‘Fossils’ Tom Wells gives us a tragic and tender tale of two old lovers who missed their chance of happiness and Jack Thorne’s ‘Red Car. Blue Car’ is a haunting closer.
In a world where feedback forms are constantly thrust into our hands and then never read, it’s thrilling to find a theatre that really cares about what we think.
By Jon Davies
‘Where’s my Seat’ runs at the new Bush Theatre until July 2nd. Tickets £20 adults, but £10 for locals and concessions.