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Madani Younis announces 2017 Season for redeveloped Bush Theatre

Season preview

MADANI Younis has announced the 2017 Season for the redeveloped Bush Theatre which opens in March and it includes three new commissions, three world premieres, two European premieres and one production that will tour nationally.

Guards at the Taj (April 7 to May 20) by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph, will receive its European premiere directed by Jamie Lloyd, who makes his Bush directorial debut. The production won the Obie Award for Best New American Play and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play when it premiered at the Atlantic Theater in New York. Read more.

This will be followed by the European premiere of Hir (June 15 to July 22) by Taylor Mac, an artist and writer whose performance launched this year’s LIFT Festival and whose recent 24-Decade History of Popular Music put him at the forefront of alternative responses to American culture. The production will be directed by Nadia Fall, who returns to the Bush following the acclaimed Disgraced.

Then in the autumn, the Bush Theatre commission Of Kith and Kin (October 18 to November 25) by Chris Thompson, last at the Bush with Albion, will be presented in co-production with Sheffield Theatres and directed by Sheffield Theatres’ new Artistic Director Robert Hastie.

Alongside this, the Bush is announcing the first season of work in its new space, the Studio. This 70-seat theatre will serve to increase the artistic output of the Bush Theatre, and provide a new generation of emerging writers and artists with a flexible, intimate space to create and showcase the best in new writing.

The first season will feature three world premieres. Up in Arms duo, writer Barney Norris and director Alice Hamilton, collaborate once again after the success of Visitors and Eventide with Norris’ new play While We’re Here (April 26 to May 27). This is a co-production between the Bush Theatre, Up in Arms and Farnham Maltings.

Nassim Soleimanpour returns to the Bush with new play Nassim (July 24 – 29) following his globally acclaimed White Rabbit Red Rabbit, which has been translated into 15 different languages and performed over 200 times by artists including Sinead Cusack, Ken Loach and Whoopi Goldberg. Directed by Bush Associate Director Omar Elerian, Nassim will feature the playwright himself.

Sophie Wu (Kick Ass, Fresh Meat) will be the first graduate of the Bush’s Emerging Writers’ Group, which launched in 2015, to have a full commission produced at the Bush, with the premiere of Ramona Tells Jim (September 18 to October 21).

Artistic Director, Madani Younis said:

“Over the past few years I have realised that we have more ideas and artists than we have opportunities in our theatre. The redevelopment of our building and the introduction of the Studio will give us more creative space for writers and artists to thrive. Our aim is to use this to help us better reflect the diversity and vibrancy of work of our city.

“It’s refreshing that this season of six plays includes emerging and established artists from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. But diversifying the audience is as important, and to support this, I’m delighted that at least 20% of the tickets in this season will be available for just £10, largely thanks to our new Count Me In ticket.”

Ahead of the first production, the new Bush Theatre will be launched in March 2017 by a week-long celebration under the banner Making Space.

Making Space reflects the Bush’s wider ambition for the future. For just over a week, every room of the transformed building will be ignited in a celebration of the diverse talent that will shape the venue for the next generation. The theatre’s doors will be open to the community that surrounds it with a free programme of events for local residents, a first look at work by Associate Artists and the Emerging Writers’ Group, and the launch of a new community programme.

At the heart of this will be Black Lives, Black Words which explores the black diaspora experience in some of the world’s largest multicultural cities. Black Lives, Black Words gives voice to an international collection of contemporary black writers and asks ‘Do black lives matter today?’

The Bush is also launching a new talent development strategy designed to revolutionise the diversity and quality of artists and artistic leadership in the UK. From 2017, a new cohort of artists will become part of the fabric of the Bush. This includes three Associate Artists on attachment to the Studio: Milk Presents, Deafinitely Theatre and ANTLER.

They will work alongside three Project 2036 practitioners – a programme that will offer a Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) playwright, director and producer a £10,000 bursary each year. Supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the first intake of artists is: Alison Holder (Producer), Rikki Henry (Director) and Hannah Khalil (Playwright). These artists join the previously announced Emerging Writers’ Group (EWG).

Madani Younis said: “With the global political context shifting, and the emergence of pervasive right wing politics, it’s more important than ever that artists and theatres agitate as well as entertain. With the redevelopment of our building, we are proud to be able to embrace new voices who will breathe life into this remarkable building. It’s their stories of joy, love, anger and (most of all) hope that will inspire a new generation of audiences. This year has rocked our very foundations: we might be less assured but we are more honest and I can’t wait to begin to fight back when we reopen the Bush in 2017.”

March 2016 marked the beginning of a major redevelopment of the Bush Theatre, led by architects Howarth Tompkins. Upon reopening, the building will be more sustainable and entirely accessible, with a new entrance, front-of-house area and exterior garden terrace to the main street. This sees a significant growth for the Bush since moving from above the pub on Shepherd’s Bush Green in 2011 – which will see audience grow from 16,000 to a projected 60,000 in just six years. This will also see the programme increase by over 60% and the number of artists increase by over 50%.