Feature: A look at Zest Theatre’s work with Juice Festival (And Sunderland Stages)

On 27th June 2017 we’ve got a taster session with Zest Theatre at Northern Stage. Aimed at 14 – 25 year olds, it’s a great opportunity to take part in a theatre workshop with Zest’s Toby Ealden. What’s nice about the session is that if you just want to go along, have a great time and then not do anything afterwards you totally can! But also, if going along gets you all fired up and wanting to do a bunch more theatre-ing you can also totally do that because the taster session is actually a lead in to a young people’s residency Zest will be doing during Juice Festival this October. Those involved in the residency will work with Zest Theatre to write and perform their own short piece as part of the show What Once Was Ours.

Zest Theatre have actually worked with Juice Festival quite a bit over the last couple of years, so I thought that a good way to give a better idea what people can expect from the taster session would be to look at some of the work they’ve done in the past.

What Once Was Ours Residency (2016)

Maybe this first one is a bit of a cheat because…they haven’t actually performed What Once Was Ours just yet – but I thought I’d include this so I could talk a bit more about their upcoming show.

The idea behind the show is to look at rising tensions amongst communities and how it reflects the politics of the last couple of years. Zest have done a lot of work with young people in different locations throughout the country, listening to 215 voices overall and building the show around these conversations.

One of the places Zest stopped last October was Gateshead, doing sessions with local schools and colleges, as well as one in Caedmon Hall that was open to a wider audience which I went along to with Team Juice member Rebecca Gregson. I’m super excited to see how the show has developed since then. For more info check the What Once Was Ours page on Zest’s website.

Thrive (2016)

I still wanted to include Thrive even though the performance was part of Sunderland Stages in 2016 and actually had nothing to Juice Festival. Although Zest generally deal with pretty serious subject matter, Thrive was particularly dark. Drawing on research the company did with professional psychologists, the show followed three young people who barely knew each other as they dealt with the death of a mutual friend and eventually became friends themselves. Though dark, the show was ultimately a pretty uplifting experience and as is often the case with Zest, the set was designed in a way that allowed the audience to feel immersed in the show in a way traditional performance spaces don’t necessarily allow. For more info visit the Thrive page on Zest’s website.

Boy Meets Girl (2015)

I think this is my favourite of Zest’s shows because it’s performed entirely in public spaces and as a result comes along with some really striking, eye-catching imagery.

When the show was performed as part of Juice Festival 2015 it took place inside Eldon Square. This was a dance piece that also used ‘silent disco’ style headphones to provide context through two narration channels, one for ‘Boy’ and one for ‘Girl’. Similar to What Once was Ours, Boy Meets Girl also featured a two day residency for young people to take part in workshops that eventually led to their taking part in the performance itself.

The show was a great way of getting interesting performance in front of a crowd that wouldn’t necessarily go out of their way to watch it. It was also just pretty fun to see dancers running around outside Topman and Debenhams as crowds of people followed them (whilst others passed by not having a clue what was going on). For more info check out current Team Juice member Ellen Orange’s look at Boy Meets Girl’s online content or visit the Boy Meets Girl page on Zest’s website.

Gatecrash (2014)

Performing at Theatre Royal as part of Juice Festival 2014, Gatecrash was a really fun show that ended with the entire audience dancing in a living room with glow sticks alongside the show’s cast and crew. The show was centred on a house party while the parents were away and the cast would interact with the audience as if they were all at an actual party (At one point, I got dragged into the toilet for a super-secret ‘girl troubles’ conversation male lead Sam). Like Boy Meets Girl it used ‘silent disco’ style headphones to allow the audience to switch back and forth between different storylines as they saw fit, which meant everyone’s experience was unique. For more info and opinions on the show you can read former Juice Festival Blogger Rebecca Forsyth’s review or check out the Gatecrash page on Zest’s website.

If you’re interested in attending Zest Theatre’s taster session at Northern Stage on 27th June 2017 you can book onto the workshop here.