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Tamara Harvey On ... Saying Bye to the Bush

In just a few weeks, the final performance in the old Bush Theatre will end, the last audience members will file out, blinking, onto Shepherd's Bush Green and the tiny room above a pub that has been home to so many stories over the last 39 years will - in theatrical terms at least - fall silent.

There are many more qualified than me to tell the history of that space but perhaps one of the reasons that this small theatre has achieved such greatness over the years is its ability to make even those with only a passing acquaintance feel a fierce ownership of it.

Something, maybe, to do with its intimacy - the way that those crowding walls immerse you completely in the worlds created; and certainly something to do with its ambition - the fuck-you spirit that refuses to let the paucity of floor space dictate the size of the emotions, the hopes, the dreams, the nightmares, that are played out under the frequently leaking ceiling.

Certainly it has been home to some of my most memorable moments in the theatre, both in the shows I’ve worked on - from the wild, furious abandon of tHe dYsFUnCKshOnalZ! to the quiet intensity of The Contingency Plan - and in the shows I’ve seen - the heartbreaking teenage uncertainty of When You Cure Me, the wisecracking sophistication of Whipping It Up, the fractured lyricism of How To Curse. I've laughed, I've cried, I've shifted uncomfortably in my seat (and not just because of the oft-bemoaned severity of those benches) and time and again I've left feeling I understand something new about the human condition.

And the good news is that all this will be true in the Bush's new home just down the road. Because ultimately, the Bush's strength lies not in the benches and buckets of the room above the pub, but in the brilliance of the writers who make a home there and in the tenacity of those who help the plays become themselves on stage for the first time.

Already there's a company of actors, designers and stage management - the team who brought Where's My Seat to life - who never knew the old building, whose Bush memories begin with the new theatre on Uxbridge Road. They never sat on the window seat in the old Bush, marveling at punks queuing for the Shepherd’s Bush Empire; they never stood on the fire escape, praying for a press night free from rainstorms and passing fire engines; they never huddled in the darkness of that tiny corridor waiting to walk onto the only slightly larger stage.

Their memories of the Bush start from a lamplit front room with bookshelves drawn on the walls; a light, airy performance space with holes where the ventilation system will be; tea breaks in the overgrown garden with Hammersmith and City line trains passing overhead. And yet their passion for the Bush Theatre is as great as that of any company's I've known. Proof, if proof were needed, that the spirit of the Bush is contained not in a particular building but rather in the work that is done and the people doing it.

So it's goodbye to the old and a delighted hello to the new. No doubt I won't be the only one to shed a tear on my final journey around the old Bush Theatre as I experience this is where we got to..., but I'm also certain that it won't be long before some unexpected moment of theatrical glory will be giving me goosebumps in the beautiful new home of the indomitable Bush Theatre, just around the corner.

Tamara Harvey is an associate director of the Bush Theatre. The final production in its current home, this is where we got to when you came in, runs until 30 September 2011.

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