17 February 2011
From the contributors:
'I had some intriguing encounters on the narrow staircase. I met Harold Pinter in the interval of City Sugar, who told me that he liked the play but it was time for the second act to begin and I should go and round up the rest of the audience. Albert Finney and John Osborne came to see Hitting Town, arriving in a white Rolls Royce. When I was introduced to Osborne, he slipped back into the shadows so I had to squeeze into a dark corner to talk to him. He seemed to be one of the shyest people I had ever met.'
– Stephen Poliakoff
' As the theatre moves I am confident it can continue to punch above its weight and audience size. It’s not too far down the road, so the numinousness surely won’t evaporate. In the end it’s down to the talent, individually and collectively.'
– Snoo Wilson
'I have a very vivid recollection of spending lunchtimes during the rehearsal period hanging out of the window above the entrance to the theatre with my new pal Victoria (we had bonded instantly) and watching the world pass by beneath us in the street below. On one of these occasions we spotted Harold Pinter standing at the bus stop. On a bubble of excitement I screeched down,
"Hey Harold, hello! Hello there! … You write plays don’t you?" He looked up blankly,
"Pardon? … What?"
"You’re a writer, we could do with one of those up here!"'
– Julie Walters
'I grew up at the Bush.'
– Robert Holman
' The Bush was an intense experience. The resources were as low as the standards were high. The space itself, a simple black rectangle of possibly magical proportions, seemed to demand that everything played within it achieve a simple perfection, a resonant and realistic truth.'
– Terry Johnson
'I remember very clearly an incident in 1985 when I came to see The Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig. During the first half of the play, Simon Callow has a row with his lover and smashes a cup onto the floor. Unfortunately on this occasion Simon, who was barefoot, trod on one of the pieces of broken china. He did not miss a beat and continued the performance as if nothing had happened. We watched mesmerized as he moved around the stage leaving an increasingly heavy trail of blood behind him. After the interval we noticed his foot had been cleaned up and there was a neat plaster covering the offending cut. A true professional!'
– Marie Pearlman
' I think it was during the playing of Belfry, in November 1991, that some stoned individual rambled onto the stage through the fire escape, stood for a moment and then calmly let himself out again. One can only wonder what the audience thought of this strange incident, and what it all meant to them within the confines of the play, and I wonder too what that individual – whoever he was or is – thought when he awoke the next morning in his hung-over state. ‘Was I in a play last night?"'
– Billy Roche
' This is scarier than writing a play – how do I cram a decade of tales, blurred memories, larfs and hangovers into a coherent piece that celebrates the wonderfulness, the uniqueness of the Bush?'
– Catherine Johnson
'I’d never let anyone else near a play of mine, always directing my own stuff, so naturally I was anxious. What I was to discover very quickly was lesson number three: there are people out there who know more about what you are writing about than you do. I don’t mean think they know, I mean really know. And they’ve all worked at the Bush.'
– Richard Cameron
'I worked at the Bush theatre in 2000 as an actor in a cheeky and charming play Mrs Steinberg and the Byker Boy, by Michael Wilcox.
It was an actor's dream: It was the first professional play I was in I and was so, so, so lucky as I left drama school early in my last year to do it and was so excited and terrified – not just because of the exposing space, but because I was going to have to spend seven shows a week snogging the heart throb Paul Nicholls, in my pants.'
– Aidan Meech
'Approaching the Bush always kick-starts my nerves. Even now.
And whenever I worked there – on two shows, numerous workshops on new plays and several rehearsed readings – I’d feel a compulsion to break into a run and get there quicker. Emerging from the Underground and ducking past the man selling jewellery outside Shepherd’s Bush tube, trying to time the lights right, trying to block out the big ugly lump of shopping centre, skirting the green, the drug-pushers and the drunks on the grass, dodging the swirl of cars … and at the end of that rushed, dirty, maddening journey, to look up and see the pub building, the theatre sign, cross the final crossing and push open the heavy door was always a euphoric relief.'
– Celia Robertson
And from the critics:
'The Bush has always been one of my favourite venues, simply because it has given me some of the most intense experiences of my theatre-going life.'
– Aleks Sierz
'I’d read so many reviews about shows at the Bush, already firmly established as a power-house of new writing, that I couldn’t believe how small the room above the pub actually was. "Infinite riches in a little room," writes Marlowe in The Jew of Malta and he might have been describing the Bush.'
– Charles Spencer
'... going to watch a play at the Bush has always felt like entering a precious, secret attic.'
– Claire Allfree
' In terms of number of seats to impact on the ecology of British theatre, there is no more influential theatre in the country than the Bush.'
– Mark Shenton