Blog: Meet What Once Was Ours director Toby Ealden

We had a chat with Zest Theatre's Toby Ealden about the company's new show What Once Was Ours.

What inspired you to make What Once Was Ours?

The impetus for this new production came the day of the EU referendum result. Like many people, we’d felt concerned about the divisive nature of the campaign and the divisions it had created in communities. But on the day of the result we just felt frustrated. Not because our side didn’t win, but because we spent the day hearing so many of the towns we tour to portrayed in the media as somehow less intelligent, racist and small-minded. Whilst there was undoubtedly a nationalistic element to that vote, this portrayal didn’t do these communities justice.

These are places that, as a company, we really care about; towns where we know the community and love the people. Places that have faced challenge and hadn’t been heard. For many that’s what the Referendum was about: a chance to get themselves listened to. So against the backdrop of Brexit, we set out to unearth the voices and give them a platform to be heard.

How do you develop your ideas into a fully formed show?

The process of making a Zest show is a really collaborative one. I usually have an idea or premise to explore, then we set out to find the right cast and creatives. All our shows are also developed alongside young people, so that their voices and experiences are at the forefront of our work. We then start to develop material, experiment and play and see what comes up. There’s usually a lot of talking at first whilst we work out what our focus is and strip away anything unnecessary, always making sure we are staying true to the heart of the piece. After about four weeks, we will have a rough script in place, that will be honed and edited during rehearsals. Lots of things will influence which direction a show takes, including input from cast, set design, young people and what is relevant in the news/society at that time. For more information on the process of making this show, check out our blog >>

Why did you decide to make theatre for young people?

Having always worked with young people, we’ve seen first hand the struggles, passions and issues facing them every day. What’s more, access to the arts is increasingly becoming something that is for a privileged few. We want to change that. We want to use the Arts to help facilitate important conversations, to provoke action and to help young people realise that theatre can be exciting,
innovative and relevant to them.

What do you hope people will get from What Once Was Ours?

When we were making the show, we wanted to give young people a voice, regardless of which way their beliefs lie. We aren’t trying to demonise or say that one opinion is more valid, but are trying to shed light on current politics and how it can sometimes leave young people behind. We hope that the show can help audiences break down barriers and realise that it’s ok to have different beliefs, as long as those beliefs don’t make us prejudiced, and that,at the heart of things, there is not that much difference between us at all.

What Once Was Ours

Beautiful imagery, striking original music and immersive design combine to create this powerful new production for young people.

Wed 1 Nov
Book Now >>

What Once Was Ours

Wed 1 Nov

Book Now >>