Following Friday’s decision by the Arts Council to overturn a debilitating proposed reduction to its annual funding (See News, 1 Feb 2008), west London’s new writing centre, the Bush Theatre (pictured), has wasted little time in announcing its new spring season which shows it doing what it does best: premiering plays by up-and-coming writers.

The season opens, from 25 February to 22 March 2008 (previews from 20 February), with Artefacts, the new play by Mike Bartlett, who made his debut last year with My Child at the Royal Court, where he’s a writer-in-residence. It tells the story of a 16-year-old Kelly whose ordinary Saturday afternoon is torn apart by the sudden arrival of her Iraqi father, sparking off discoveries about family, identity and culture clashes. Artefacts is the recipient of an Old Vic New Voices Award.

The cast are Lizzy Watts (as Kelly), Peter Polycarpou (her father Ibrahim), Mouna Albakry, Karen Ascoe and Amy Hamdoon. James Grieve directs the premiere, which is a co-production with nabokov, who had a hit at Trafalgar Studios last year with Edmund White’s Terre Haute. The new play is designed by Lucy Osborne, with lighting by Hartley TA Kemp and original music by actor Arthur Darvill (who was Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated as Newcomer of the Year for his performance in Terre Haute)

After Artefacts, Bush artistic director Josie Rourke will direct the world premiere of Tinderbox, a dystopian “revenge” comedy by first-time playwright Lucy Kirkwood. In an England heated up by global warming, Scotland is now separated by Hadrian’s Channel. Perchik, a rogue Scottish artist without any papers, finds sanctuary in the last butcher’s shop in Bradford, but all is not as it seems. Tinderbox runs from 28 April to 24 May 2008 (previews from 23 April).

The final production in the Bush’s spring season is the UK premiere of 2,000 Feet Away, which also marks the UK debut for Australian-British playwright Anthony Weigh. It’s set in Eldon, Iowa, a tiny community in the American heartland, where the deputy sheriff must enforce a new law banning sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of anywhere children may gather. When the deputy has to evict his neighbour’s son, the new law hits home. Josie Rourke directs.

Rourke spearheaded a high-profile campaign to “get behind the Bush” after the proposed funding cuts came to light in December. Today, she said: “Thank you to everyone who has supported the Bush Theatre through the past month. I am in no doubt that the survival of The Bush is due to your passionate and eloquent support.”

Details of the hundreds of leading playwrights, actors and emerging writers who signed open letters in support of the Bush are listed on the theatre website, where a campaign has now begun to raise extra money to find a new home, one of the concerns expressed by the Arts Council England. According to the website: “What lies ahead is the need to address the concerns about our building. We saved our company, now let’s save our theatre.”


ACE had originally proposed to reduce the Bush’s annual subsidy by nearly half. It was one of the luckiest of the 17 organisations granted reprieves last week. It will now retain its funding, with inflationary increases, over the next three years. The Orange Tree secured the same reversal, while Exeter Northcott and the National Student Drama Festival were given one more year’s money before another review and Bristol Old Vic was awarded an interim grant.

Amongst the unlucky 185 which are not having their funding renewed are: Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Derby Playhouse, London’s Drill Hall, Cambridge Arts Theatre, London Bubble Theatre Company, People Show, Kaos touring company and David Glass New Mime Ensemble. As they race to find alternative backing, all of them now face uncertain futures at best and permanent closure at worst.

- by Terri Paddock