Theatre: A Callow way with canned laughter

Bush Theatre 25th Birthday Gala Royal Court, London
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
It's not every night that I step out of a taxi to be greeted by autograph hounds. In fairness, I should point out that they slunk away the second they spotted that I was a mere mortal rather than one of the top-flight Equity members who turned up to cheer or appear in Sunday's 25th birthday celebrations for the Bush Theatre.

Midway through this evening of prime meaty chunks from the Bush's greatest hits, Harriet Walter stepped on stage. "Isn't it good to see them all again?" she sighed, nostalgically. "A little older and shabbier, and that's just the actors..." OK, you had to be there to get the full impact of the gag, but everyone guffawed happily. She was right. It was good. A cross between a fund-raising gala and a college reunion (the party after went on till 4am), the activities on stage were equally high spirited. Even in snippet form, you feasted on plays you'd forgotten and savoured the atmosphere of others you'd missed because you were too busy back then, or barely even born.

Artistic director Mike Bradwell had the unenviable task of selecting just 12 excerpts to represent the life and soul of this unique theatre. It was fascinating seeing hints of recent plays like Kevin Elyot's My Night With Reg or Terry Johnson's Dead Funny in their authors' early work. The roll call of debuts was remarkable. Millions of TV viewers might never have enjoyed Lucy Gannon's Soldier Soldier or Peak Practice if it weren't for the Bush, which first produced her work. As for Jonathan Harvey, Beautiful Thing was rejected by the Court; the Bush staged it and the rest is history.

Biggest mystery of the night was how, 17 years on, Deborah Findlay still looked like a young student, playing opposite Alan Rickman in Dusty Hughes's marvellous Commitments. There were unscripted highlights too. Simon Callow hilariously failed to open a succession of beer cans in the bar scene from Snoo Wilson's Soul of the White Ant. The entire audience, not to mention the raunchy barmaid played by Linda Marchal, better known as Lynda la Plante, was reduced to hysterics.

If not everything made you hunger for a revival, that was as it should be. The Bush is about encouraging new talent. Long may it thrive.

Comments