“Where does the truth end and the legend begin?” we’re asked towards the end of this farewell promenade around arguably the best pub theatre of them all.
Where indeed, and when this small but mighty space has returned to being just another empty room above a pub, I suspect the legend will develop pretty quickly.
This is where we got to.. takes us on a guided tour of the theatre in small groups. Over the course of an hour we get to explore everywhere from the admin office to the toilets, guided by Justin Sallinger’s reassuring, BBC reporter-type voice heard variously through speakers, MP3 players and disparate cables.
At several points the group is broken up and we’re asked to go our separate ways. At one stage I found myself standing on the fire escape in a spot where so many nervous young actors have stood and pondered their (often sparkling) futures. Never has a pile of fag-butts carried such emotional resonance.
The climax, predictably, is in the theatre itself. Final lines from a number of notable productions are beamed around the black box (how small it seems with no audience or actors to fill it); a reminder, as if it were needed, that this really is the end of an era. As someone who only started attending productions here a few years ago, it was emotional, so I can only imagine what those with more historical connections will feel.
The commentary is interspersed with testimonies from a range of Bush alumni, from founder Brian McDermott to present day artistic director Josie Rourke - soon to inherit another studio space with an international reputation, the Donmar.
And it’s to them, the people who made the theatre what it’s become, that the credit should really go. Any venue is only as good as the people who work in it, and in its almost 30-year lifespan the Bush has undoubtedly had some of the very best (including the creators of this show, Elinor Cook and interactive specialists non zero one). Here’s hoping this legacy continues when it moves to its new home round the corner.
A fittingly fond farewell to West London’s little magic box.