Blog: Meet Youthquake creator Toby Ealden

We spoke to Zest Theatre's Artistic Director Toby Ealden about the inspiration behind the company's new interactive show for young people, Youthquake.

What inspired you to make Youthquake?

The impetus for this new production actually came up during the process of touring our previous show, What Once Was Ours. That show was about young people’s thoughts and opinions on Brexit. It used a handful of recorded voices from young people throughout the show and audiences reacted really strongly towards them. Those voices spoke with such clarity and honesty that it surprised our audiences. They weren’t expecting to be hearing such articulate responses from teenagers.

This made me think. Why are we only sharing recordings of voices of young people, or just casting professional young actors to play our teenage audience. Why can’t young people come on stage and actually speak for themselves? So that’s how Youthquake came to be.

This is a real experiment. Whilst I’ve created lots of youth theatre productions in my career, this is the first time I’ve tried it with an extensive touring production. It’s a logistical feat, with a brand new cast of young performers added into the show in each town we visit. But it’s a challenge that we are so excited about! Who knows what will happen, but I can’t wait to find out.

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 and then we set out to find the right cast and creatives to support the process. All our shows are developed alongside young people, so that their voices and experiences are at the forefront of our work. We don’t make anything until we’ve talked to them first. 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.

Research and Development usually takes 4 weeks, after which we will have a rough script in place, that will be honed and edited during rehearsals. Youthquake was an 8 week process, due to the sheer numbers of young people we met. 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.

Why did you decide to make theatre for young people?

Because they are incredible! I’ve always worked with young people and have 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. This generation are left unheard in our society, so most of all, I want young people to feel seen and heard.

What do you hope people will get from Youthquake?

That’s a big question that’s not easy to answer because the show tackles such a broad range of topics for young people. I think the ‘takeaways’ will be different for everyone. I think many adults will have their eyes opened to the realities of living as a young person in the UK. For some young people it will just be the feeling that this is a show that has actually represented them and their story. I hope some will leave feeling inspired and empowered that they could make a difference. That might be the big stuff, like protesting or activism, but it’s also in the small acts that are achievable every day. This generation go through so much, and most of what they think and feel goes unheard. But we’ve heard. Humans all need to have a sense of identity, belonging and meaning in order to thrive. Youthquake is just a 60-minute show, but it’s a small contribution that I hope will help on that journey.


A thrilling new 360° theatre experience that's part show, part TED Talk and part party, that will take you on an exhilarating journey through the hidden lives of Teen Britain.

Wed 16 - Thu 17 Oct
Book now >>


Wed 16 - Thu 17 Oct

Book now >>