The Bunker Theatre’s Artistic Director spoke to Love London Love Culture about the theatre’s upcoming spring season…
How are you feeling about The Bunker’s Spring programme?
This is the first fully curated season of work we have announced since opening the venue, so it feels like a long time coming in terms of a clear and united narrative about the type of work and artist The Bunker is excited to support. We’ve spent the past 14 or so months working out how our space functions, who our audience are and what they love, and now we can launch ourselves into 2018 with – I hope – a season of work that grows on the foundation we have been building since October 2016. I’m really excited to see how audiences take to the range of work we have programmed, and I am thrilled to welcome back old collaborators in the form of Damsel Productions and new collaborators like DumbWise and the Hampstead.
What was the central idea around the Spring programme? Was there anything in particular you want audiences to experience?
It no longer feels hyperbolic to say the world is an unpredictable and, at times, scary place. Yet, there is plenty of joy and laughter and love around as well. We wanted a season of work that digs deep into who we are and where we come from, but also exposes the joyous elements of being alive: friendship, creativity, love, and adventure. In that sense, the spring season was about bringing together incredible artists to tell their stories, however they see fit; it has never been our intention to dictate an experience to an audience. Instead, I hope there is enough variety and depth of work to excite, challenge, inspire, and inform, as well as entertain and engage.
What are you most looking forward to about the new programme of work?
There’s never an easy way to answer this sort of question because there are elements of all the work that I am excited by, otherwise I wouldn’t have programmed them. That said, I’m intrigued to see how our existing audience base responds to arguably our most ambitious and ‘out there’ season of work, as well as to meet and encounter the new audiences that this work will bring to The Bunker for the first time. Also, to be very truthful, I’m pumped to get back into the rehearsal room myself: It’s very easy to run a theatre like The Bunker and forget that I got into this mad world to tell stories and direct plays, so it’s a privilege to be able to do that in the spring with the world premiere of Kevin Armento’s Devil With The Blue Dress.
How do each of the pieces coming up at The Bunker reflects what the theatre stands for?
The Bunker is all about putting the artist at the centre of our process, and finding talented and excited collaborators to work with. Ken pays homage to one of the forefathers of British experimental theatre, Ken Campbell. The Bunker, although not necessarily intentionally, has become known as a home for experimental and more avant-garde work, and so to bring Ken to The Bunker allows us to explore our roots in terms of experimental work. Moving onto Electra, we get the opportunity to work with a regional company in DumbWise, who are Bristol-based. Their team is exploring a brilliant classic, but through the lens of actor-musicians with a pumping punk score — It’s perfect for how The Bunker loves to look at classic texts. I’ve already touched on Devil, but considering its exploration of The Lewinsky Scandal in light of the wave of bravery against sexual abuse this year, I am confident the play will continue the theatre’s commitment to challenging taboo subjects and giving a voice to the oppressed. Finally, we continue our relationship with Damsel Productions with their first full-length production in the space: Izzy Tennyson’s Grotty. Grotty explores the lesbian sub-culture in London with beautiful honesty, and yet this is a topic we rarely see explored on stage, if at all. Damsel’s bravery with the subject matter of its work, especially in exploring marginalised queer and female stories, encompasses the core of The Bunker’s ethos of giving a home to untold stories.
The Bunker is known for having a wide range of after show talks and events that reflect each production. Can audiences expect the same with this new programme?
We will absolutely be continuing with this tradition, and I can’t wait to see what debates and discussions arise in response to the work we have programmed. What’s more we will be opening a new bar on our entrance ramp, and turning our former bar into The Bunker Snug complete with a place for audiences and companies to hang out before and after shows. Across the year we built up a variety of collaborators from spoken word to dance artists who are all always keen to see shows and interpret them in their own art form. This has been at the backbone of what we do: A theatre not just for plays, but for all creative performers, and what’s more bringing all those artists together in one evening. I hope to see dance responses to Greek tragedy, and spoken word responses to the state of affairs in the USA right now!
What can audiences expect from this new season at the theatre?
In terms of expectations, I want to keep this one simple: Come, prepare to be entertained, to be challenged, to be inspired, and – hopefully – you’ll leave with a smile on your face and a new thought in your head.
It is quite a mixture of work that will be presented during the spring – was it easy to create the programme?
I like to believe that nothing we do in the arts is ‘easy’, but we’re often all too modest to admit that what we do, be it writing, acting, performing, designing, curating, takes a real depth of skill and time. However, I’m not for a second pretending I’ve got it nailed down; I’m still very much learning and making up a lot of things as I go, but also I’m being very vigilant to learn from my mistakes, and build on our successes. That said, once I’d fallen in love with the companies and their work, the decision to offer them a slot in the season was easy. It was all the other logistics – like filming a 4-show trailer in just one day – that was pretty challenging!
How do you think this new season will reflect the world in which we live in?
Our artists are from the here and now, living and breathing the everyday in our city and beyond. Even though the stories they are going to tell span a millennia and beyond, at the core of each piece are people and the journeys those people go on. The world in which we currently live is shifting on a daily basis, and I think we are all constantly trying to pin it down and say “Wait, slow down, let me catch up.” I think all four of these plays give us time to slow down, sit down, process and digest what is going on around us, and then throw ourselves back in the open ready to face the next challenge the world throws at us.
To find out more about The Bunker’s upcoming season visit: https://www.bunkertheatre.com/