Level Up, a show that braids professional and community work together, ends my first season at the Bush. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to run a building.
I’m passionate about community work because I owe my involvement in the arts to it. Writing a play for Theatre Royal Stratford East’s Young Actors Company was life-changing. It felt like I belonged in that building in a way I never had before. So I made it my home and used that home as a springboard to other venues.
It is important that ‘professional’ work isn’t seen as so different from community work. So at the Bush we started talking about bringing community work on to the main stage.
Level Up is a trial because we’re working in a way we haven’t worked before. Actor Malachi Kirby came to me to talk about writing and working with young people, and we sat down with our associate Daniel Bailey and our community team and spoke about how we could make this together.
We put out a call across London for 18 to 25-year-olds to work on the show with us. About 40 responded to our call. We had a really rewarding day of workshops and we hope to keep links with all those that attended – we want them back in the building.
The five young people working on the project had so much to say. You can’t write a story about being young without young people. They are on stage with Malachi and will be telling this story with him.
It’s a huge project that will change right up until press night. It shows how the community can shape our work, which is really important. It’s what the Bush is here to do.
Beyond that, if we’re saying community work is as important as professional work, we have to put our money where our mouths are. The young people are on stage with him, and they need to be credited and paid for their work.
Then the next step for them is what they learn from the process and what we can do in a building of our size to continue that relationship.
Level Up is the first step in a three-part plan. We’ll analyse it and see how it worked. Part two will be about testing a version of a resident young company and part three will be setting it up properly.
Stratford East has a wonderful young company – as do many other theatres. We are asking: what is our version that is different from all of those?
This style of work has been in my bones from the beginning, and it’s been in the Bush’s bones. There is no theatre without community work.
Lynette Linton is artistic director of the Bush Theatre