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June 21, 2011 6:26 pm

Where’s My Seat? Bush Theatre, London

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This is the theatrical equivalent of an adventure playground. After years of searching for a new home, west London’s Bush Theatre is now in the process of moving a couple of hundred yards into the former Shepherd’s Bush Library. There, the theatre will finally have enough space to run itself as the powerhouse of new writing that it is and, as important, that space will be its own instead of being shoehorned between a pub downstairs and the landlady’s flat upstairs. But things are very much in transition, and so artistic director Josie Rourke has made a virtue out of necessity.

This first production is in every respect a test flight for the new premises. It consists of three short plays, each lasting 20 minutes or so. Each uses a selection of props culled by the Bush staff from their stores; these include a giant strawberry and a necklace of fingers. Each playwright has been given a set of stage directions by a distinguished theatre practitioner to incorporate into their piece. Furthermore, each play is staged in a different configuration of the new space: thrust, in the round and, finally, end-on.

 
 Propped up: Francesca Annis in
‘Where’s My Seat’

The plays themselves are somewhat secondary. Deirdre Kinahan (with stage directions from Michael Grandage, artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse) has written a knowing little theatre-parody sketch in which a trendy director jazzes up (or something-elses up) The Wind in the Willows. Tom Wells (with characteristically detailed directions from Alan Ayckbourn) supplies a wistful duet in the manner of 1950s-1960s British theatrical absurdism. Jack Thorne’s Red Car. Blue Car (with directions from Rourke) is an engrossing slice of that writer’s trademark low-key storytelling set around a hospital accident and emergency department. Director Tamara Harvey and her company of six (including Francesca Annis, Hugo Speer and Nina
Sosanya) seem to enjoy the “Let’s do the show right here!” challenge as much as we do.

 

bushtheatre.co.uk

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