Bush Theatre has announced the first shows for its 50th Birthday season.
On 7 April London’s Bush Theatre celebrates 50 years of discovering and developing new writing, directors, creatives, and acting talent.
Many of these have gone on to dominate the arts and entertainment industries including Jonathan Harvey, Alan Rickman, Cush Jumbo, James Graham, Jack Thorne, Arinzé Kene, Victoria Wood, and Julie Walters.
Today, the theatre has revealed the first shows which will make up its 50th birthday season with Artistic Director Lynette Linton saying: “Our 50th birthday season at the Bush is a celebration of half a century of doing what we do best; providing for and reflecting the community around us, and commissioning plays which give voice to unheard and marginalised voices, often during difficult times.
“Looking back at the plays produced both at our original home above a pub on Shepherd’s Bush Green and now our thriving building on the Uxbridge Road, the common thread has been to create debate, to broaden audiences’ horizons, and most importantly to entertain.’
“It would be impossible to produce this work without the support of our audiences and donors and those donating today may well be helping develop the next Arinzé Kene or Victoria Wood.
“We are very aware of those whose shoulders on which we stand and want to take this opportunity to honour the ground-breaking work they’ve done, building an international reputation for new writing, launching the careers of thousands of theatre creatives both onstage and behind the scenes, and being an important hub for the local community.
“It’s a mission that we cherish and look forward to continuing for another 50 years.”
Here’s a round up of the shows making up the first part of the 50th Birthday season (part two will be announced later in 2022)…
House Of Ife (29 April – 11 June)
By Beru Tessema
Directed by Lynette Linton
Cast: Jude Akuwudike, Yohanna Ephrem, Sarah Priddy, Karla-Simone Spence, and Michael Workeye
‘See that’s the problem with this family innit, we never wanna talk real about Ife.’
In the wake of the sudden death of their eldest son, Ife, one family is forced to confront the traumas they’ve long tried to bury. As the sun beats down on their North London flat, and the head of the family arrives from Ethiopia for the funeral, tensions rise, cultures clash, and past betrayals are unearthed.
A tense and captivating story of what it means to belong, and what happens when a family’s secrets shake its foundations. This explosive drama by Ethiopian-British writer Beru Tessema is a new Bush commission directed by Artistic Director, Lynette Linton (Sweat, Chiaroscuro).
Favour (24 June – 6 August)
By Ambreen Razia
A co-production with Clean Break co-production, co-directed by Róisín McBrinn and Sophie Dillon-Moniram
‘There’s going to be some changes round here, sugar and TV allowed whenever you want’
Leila is happy living at home with Noor, her loving but traditional grandmother. When Aleena, her fiercely independent mother, returns home from prison determined to deliver a new world of fun and excitement, their calm lives are upended in a blur of nail varnish and sweet treats. Family secrets come tumbling into the light, and Leila finds deciding on her future more difficult than she first thought.
Favour is a touching and hopeful family drama that tackles duty, addiction, and the battle of putting yourself back together. Writer of Diary of a Hounslow Girl Ambreen Razia’s remarkable new play, a new Bush Theatre, and Clean Break co-commission, tells a strikingly frank story of a working-class Muslim family in a way you’ve never seen before on stage.
The P Word (9 September – 22 October)
By Waleed Akhtar
Directed by Anthony Simpson-Pike
‘I’m like the best version of brown. I’m not even into Pakistanis and I’d probably hook up with myself.’
Zafar flees homophobic persecution in Pakistan to seek asylum in the UK. Londoner Bilal (or Billy as he prefers to be known) is ground down by years of Grindr and the complexity of being a brown gay man. Their worlds are about to change forever.
Moving through casual hookups to the UK’s hostile environment, Waleed Akhtar’s sharp-witted and devastating new play charts the parallel lives of two gay Pakistani men. This story of who wins in the luck of the life’s draw is a new Bush Theatre commission.
The Bush Young Company – Bush Retrospectives (May)
The Bush Retrospectives are discussions and performances with writers whose work has appeared at the theatre and the Bush Young Company. The events begin in May with Jonathan Harvey and Beautiful Thing.
The first event focuses on Beautiful Thing, Jonathan Harvey’s celebrated tale of Ste and Jamie, two young gay Londoners finding their feet in the LGBTQ+ world.
Written at a time when homophobia was commonplace and Clause 28 and AIDS made daily headlines, the Bush put a young, gay Liverpool playwright centre stage. Beautiful Thing later transferred to the West End, was made into a feature film, and discovering its extraordinary writing and message of hope has been a rite of passage for many in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. The show will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2023.
Writer Jonathan Harvey joins the Young Company who perform scenes from the play and discuss its place in theatre history.
Further plays in the season will be announced later this year.
Paradise Now! (2 December 2022 – 21 January 2023)
By Margaret Perry
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Gabriel’s been low lately. To be honest, she’s been low since the 80s. Her sister Baby works two jobs to support them. That’s how it is. How it’s always been.
Gabriel’s never been up to much, that’s what everyone says. But what if there is someone who believes in her? A whole community of women to lift her up towards the life she’s always wanted?
Paradise Now! is the brand new play by Margaret Perry (Collapsible) about ambition, exploitation, and kinship in a world that wants to keep us strangers. A new Bush Theatre commission.
Sleepova (24 February – 8 April 2023)
By Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini
‘We don’t get to choose when we become women, y’know?’
Join Rey, Elle, Shan, and Funmi. Armed with sugary snacks, school gossip, and secret questions they can only ask each other, their sleepovas are pretty much a sacred space for them.
As each year tugs them further into adulthood and life doesn’t pan out quite as they imagined, they struggle to hold on to a friendship that they swore would last a lifetime. Sleepova is an ode to black women, their boundless spirits, and wild dreams. A new Bush Theatre commission from Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini (Little Miss Burden).
August In England (28 April – 10 June 2023)
Written and performed by Lenny Henry
Directed by Lynette Linton and Daniel Bailey
‘You never allow me tell my story. I been trying to tell it someone and nobody listenin’
Charming, flawed, and with the gift of the gab, we all know a man like August Henderson. Between his three kids, devoted wife-to-be, and part-ownership of a fruit and veg shop, he is proud of the life he has built since landing in his beloved West Bromwich.
So when faced with deportation to a country he has no memory of, he isn’t prepared to go quietly. Listen up, he is ready to tell his own story.
Poignant and hilarious in equal measure, August in England gives insight into the lives impacted by the injustice of the Windrush scandal.
Written and performed by Lenny Henry in his playwriting debut, the celebrated actor and comedian brings his vast talents onto the stage in this intimate one-man show. Co-directed by the Bush Artistic Director, Lynette Linton (Sweat, Chiaroscuro), and Associate Artistic Director, Daniel Bailey (Red Pitch, The High Table).
Additionally, Invisible by Nikhil Parmar will run in the studio from 27 June – 16 July.
For tickets and more information, visit bushtheatre.co.uk