Review: What Once Was Ours

If you think theatre is performed on a stage, with the audience sat in rows, watching quietly, then think again. Zest Theatre and Half Moon theatre are here to bring us an immersive theatre experience, pushing boundaries and redefining conventions.

Before the main performance, audiences were treated to a wonderfully orchestrated series of three vignettes, created by a group of young people in a creative response to the main show. These pieces were all different scenarios about divisions in our society, and conducted around the entrance and corridor to Stage 3 meant that the audience had to get very close to the action, literally within the scenes themselves – jammed into a simulated ‘lift’ in one, and a metro carriage in another.

The young people were excellent, confidently executing their very thoughtful, not to mention thought provoking pieces, and finally telling us all that ‘it’s the small things that count’, before handing out ‘random acts’ for us all to make the world a better place.

Then came the time to enter Stage 3 for the main performance. The ‘stage’ took up the whole floorspace, and was equipped with soft play style shapes where the audience could take their seats, right in the middle of the action. The play that then ensued was about Katie, a 17 year old white girl, whose black half-brother Callum turns up out of the blue, looking for his Dad, who is also Katie’s. In the space of a weekend after Callum arrives, the tensions and conversations between the pair reflect a much wider conflict regarding race and immigration that has been present across the country in the run up to and wake of Brexit.

The show was cleverly executed by two wonderful actors and was both heart-breaking and poignant. Being sat right in the midst of the action was uncomfortable, but extremely effective in making you feel part of the conversation, part of the drama. Alongside the show itself were recordings of young people and their opinions on a range of social and political issues, some of which were deeply worrying and others which were hopeful and heartfelt. This show did an incredible job of capturing and commenting on a deeply conflicted society.