Performing Arts students from Sunderland College were chosen by a national theatre company to help them to develop an award-wining theatre production inspired by Brexit.

The production What Once Was Ours, created against the background of Brexit, was developed through direct contact with over 200 young people from two areas of Britain that voted Leave, including Sunderland, and two areas that voted Remain, to highlight the opinions of those too young to vote in the referendum.

First year BTEC Level 3 90 Credit Diploma Acting students at Sunderland College provided their voices and opinions for the Zest Theatre production through two workshops, which took place at the College. The students’ words and opinions were used in the award-winning piece of theatre to explore how politics and national values impacted on the complex lives of one family.

Shaun Boyd, BTEC Level 3 90 Credit Diploma Acting student, said: “I loved having the opportunity to work with a professional theatre company like Zest. It was exciting for my voice to be heard and know that it would be used to create a piece of theatre. It was amazing to watch the end result and to actually hear my voice being used.”

What Once Was Ours opened at the Half Moon Theatre in London’s East End before touring nationally to 26 venues around the UK. They also came back to perform it for the students at Sunderland College.

Wendy Armstrong, Performing Arts Lecturer at Sunderland College, said: “Zest Theatre wanted to create a piece of theatre that was inspired by Brexit. The piece was totally informed by young voices and their opinion on Brexit. Our students enjoyed having their voice heard; they were articulate and provided some thought provoking ideologies. They also had the opportunity to see a piece of theatre’s starting point, up to the final performance, which was an invaluable experience for our acting students.”

Zest Theatre, based in Lincoln, tours theatres, outdoor spaces and schools with a variety of interactive, immersive, site specific or promenade productions. 

What Once Was Ours was recently announced as the 2018 winner of the Best Production for Young People 13+ at the prestigious Off West End Awards.

Toby Ealdenis is the Artistic Director at Zest Theatre and an award-winning British Theatre Director specialising in immersive work for young people (under 25). When accepting the award at the ceremony in London he said:

“The impetus for this show was Brexit and the unheard voices of young people across the country who were denied a voice because they were too young to vote. We worked with 215 young people across the country; Tower Hamlets, Barnsley, Boston and Sunderland to make it. This award is dedicated to them. It’s not easy being a young person at the moment, so we give it to them and say thank you for this.”

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