After a year spent making work in community spaces – from churches to disused pubs to karaoke bars – west London's Bush Theatre is back at its permanent home: the old Passmore Edwards Public Library building on Uxbridge Road.
The last 12 months have enabled architects Haworth Tompkins to move in and begin work on a £4.3 million project to revitalise and transform the space. Haworth Tompkins are experts at theatres: their previous hits include the Young Vic, Chichester Festival Theatre, the National Theatre and the Liverpool Everyman – which won the RIBA Stirling prize in 2013. These guys know what they are doing. And here they bring their magic too: using what was already in the building, the company has adapted existing spaces and recycled materials to create a venue which feels new but familiar. It's still the old lovely Bush, just with some shiny bits. Ahead of the official opening this weekend, here's six things you didn't know about the new Bush Theatre.
The cat flap was built into the design
You may or may not have known that the Bush Theatre have two cats: Pirate and Marley. Where they have been living over the last year while works are carried out is a closely guarded secret, but the building is absolutely ready to welcome them back. The architects were instructed to make sure there was a cat flap built into the theatre and give them access to a lovely green roof terrace. Puurrrrrfect.
You can see into the theatre from the cafe
One of the great things about the new design is a couple of secret windows that can be opened up so that people sitting in the cafe can see into the theatre itself. It's a sound-proofed window that can – and will – be blocked during the actual run of the show. But during technical get-ins, you will be able to see all the secrets.
If you are a local, you get beer cheaper
According to artistic director Madani Younis, the public loved the old Bush bar so they've not messed about too much with the beverages. The newly re-branded Library Bar is both bar and cafe and has a brand new kitchen. Cherry on the top? If you live within a two mile radius of the theatre you get a 10 per cent discount.
A theatre set designer worked on making it look nice
Who needs style gurus when you have a whole host of theatre designers to choose from? For the finishing touches to the new space, the Bush got theatre designer Chiara Stephenson to feng shui the place, giving it a funky, down-to-earth atmosphere. It looks great.
It will now have allocated seating in the theatre
Trying to get a seat at the old Bush was a little too much of a free-for-all. With no allocated seating it meant people queued up early to make sure they got their perfect auditorium spot. Now there's no need. Allocated seating means you can chill out in the bar until the very last minute ahead of curtain up and not be afraid of sitting right at the back. Although, with a potential capacity of about 200, it's unlikely you're ever going to get a bad seat.
There is now a studio space
One of the main reasons for re-doing the theatre was to create a brand new space. And this has most definitely happened. The new 70-seater studio is fully accessible and will enable the theatre to stage more small-scale shows. That, plus a new rehearsal room in the actual building, will be a bit of a game-changer for the theatre.
Black Lives, Black Words opens the new Bush Theatre this weekend, running between 23 and 25 March. Guards at the Taj opens 12 April with previews from 7 April.