LYNETTE LINTON says she is determined to make theatre going a more inclusive experience that it is at present.
The Artistic Director at the Bush in west London has officially been in position since January and last month saw her roll out her first production comprising of mostly new work.
Her fresh approach is in keeping with the fact that she doesn’t care much for risk.
She explained: “Art is risky. The season that we have out together at the Bush some might describe it as risky, it’s all debuts, writers first plays.
“It’s about going ‘we’re here’. I am incredibly inspired by James Baldwin, what are we hear to do, take risks and redefine what this landscape is as artists.”
Having got her feet well and truly whet in her new home, Linton is chomping at the bit to establish her vision: “I properly took over in March. I was still directing Richard II at the Globe Theatre at the time so I didn’t get into the building until three months after my start date.
“I grew up in east London, we didn’t go to the theatre. Stratford east was the closest one but it wasn’t cheap enough.
“When I was younger I thought I liked performing because I was bit obsessed with EastEnders and I thought I wanted too be an actor and so I tried to work out what that meant but I didn’t get anywhere because I didn’t feel comfortable in those spaces.
“I was always in writing, reading and the English language in school so I started to write my own stuff and forcing people to read it and then decided to become an actress because of something like EastEnders, it wasn’t theatre that was in my face, it was EastEnders because that was what everybody watched.
“It wasn’t until I met Rickie Beadle-Blair at the National Youth Theatre, because I had joined it, that he saw something in me that I hadn’t seen in terms of what the medium theatre meant.”
Prior to having being exposed to Beadle-Blair, Linton says attending and theatre and being told off because you opened a packet of crisps was a typical experience, the type of off-putting encounter that kept her in the dark.
“How do you know you like Shakespeare if you hear all of these horror stories about the theatre and then when you go there people make you feel like you shouldn’t be there?
“When we used to go theatre with school, people used to look vex that school kids where there. If that’s your only experience of going to the theatre then you’re going to equate that with people being angry.
“So I never really clocked that this was my medium until someone let me know.
“One of the reasons why I wanted to run a building and I am so lucky that I am is because I want to let young people know, not only young people, all generations because my mum still isn’t comfortable in theatre spaces, that this is for you and it is the oldest form of story telling. It’s live and if you watch Netflix, if you watch EastEnders you should come to the theatre and see stuff on stage. It’s medium and experience like no other.”
Also firmly on her agenda is shining a light on works produced by writers of colour. Talking about the importance of giving those voices a platform she enthused: “It’s so important because I think that there is an illusion that we have to keep reinventing the wheel.
“But actually these writers have been doing their thing for years.
“I often focus on and go on about black stories that we are not taught in schools and we’re not taught our history here, we know more about the American Black Panthers than we do the British Black Panthers. We don’t know.
“When the Windrush scandal broke I had people asking me what the Windrush was. Where in a place where people are not educated about people of colour and their contributions to this country.
“I think that’s the same as when we talk about the our work as writers in the theatre our work and works previously are not studied as much as it should be.”
Paying homage she added: “For me as women of colour, Jackie Kay’s work, Winsome Kinnock’s work … I’m standing on their shoulders and it’s really important that I know that and other artists in the future know that. These women and men have been working for decades to get our stories out there.
“To open the building with a show that celebrates that was really important to me.”
Hailed as one of the youngest Artistic Directors in the game Linton says there has been a lot of support from peers and well-wishers.
She said: “People do focus on my age quite. Yeah, I am young and yeah I am a women of colour and yeah I am from east London and yeah and yeah and yeah … I could keep going but come and see the art, come and see the work.”
To get that target demographic through the doors at the Bush Linton has plans, lots of them.
“I want to make sure people know that this is a space for them. Next year we have a show call Level Up and we will be giving away 1000 tickets to young people. We’re targeting young people that might not have come to the theatre before and making sure they know this a space for them.
“There are a lot of things coming, It’s an exciting time for us here.”