Justin Salinger is currently managing to simultaneously appear in two shows in two different parts of the country. While he's been coming home
to Stratford, his recorded voice provides the narration for this is where we got to when you came in
. Having given the new venue a test drive
the Bush Theatre returns to its original home for one last time, in collaboration with interactive theatre company non zero one. Starting at half-hour intervals and lasting just under an hour, four audience members at a time take a tour of the building that has been a theatre for the last 40 years. To start with it does seem more like a guided tour than a piece of theatre as you're sent to the production office where you're invited to ruffle through boxes of mementoes and ticket stubs, and look out of the windows towards Shepherd's Bush Green and the remains of the public toilets where decades ago John Gielgud was arrested for cottaging.
Things feel less like a tour and more like a proper immersive performance once you get directed into the ladies' toilets and each pick up an MP3 player and headphones. From now on each audience member largely gets their own experience, the group sometimes reassembles and the various intructions cleverly interweave (sometimes you're asked to hold a door open for a member of your group who'll be along in a few moments; and there they come) but at other times you get a room to yourself and some multimedia ways of telling you about its history. The narration is built around interviews with creatives who share their memories of working in the cramped spaces; the most prolific contributors include Samuel Barnett, Jonathan Harvey, Geoffrey Streatfeild, Michelle Terry and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, with Alan Rickman's voice occasionally booming into earshot. Streatfeild proves good with an anecdote while Terry turns out to have an, er, interestingly scatological turn of phrase. It builds up to recreating the experience of an actor entering onto the stage itself and some thoughts on the many staging configurations the venue's seen over the years (the new venue is bigger and more flexible, but there's something more exciting about places like the old Bush and the Gate which seem to create an impossible variety of stagings in what looks like a very limiting space.) It's a rather touching farewell to a building that's held many memories that does frequently threaten to drift into the self-indulgently sentimental (the attempts to make you sad about the fact that this is your last visit to the space are heavy-handed) but mostly stops short of that; and quite apart from the specific place it's built around, feels like an interesting reminder of the way people can form such strong emotional attachments to buildings and the memories in them.this is where we got to when you came in
by non zero one and Elinor Cook is booking until the 30th of September at the (old) Bush Theatre.