Paul Smith

The artistic director of Middle Child on staging ‘gig theatre’ piece All We Ever Wanted Was Everything in Hull

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I’m writing this blog on the day of our first preview for All We Ever Wanted Was Everything and two days before the UK general election. These two things feel inextricably linked, the show being about the world we inherited and the world we’re creating, and the election sure to have a massive say in the future of the country.

Making theatre in 2017 feels like a huge challenge, the world around us constantly shifting and surprising us. With this piece, we’ve had to be as reactive as possible to the changing climate here in Britain.

Our story is deeply rooted in how the world we grow up in shapes who we become. We first meet our two protagonists, Leah and Chris, in 1997’s Cool Britannia – a nation full of optimism and expectation, a place where anything seemed possible for the next generation, encouraged to reach for the stars. After an interval, we then skip 10 years and return to Leah and Chris in 2007’s Broken Britain with the war on terror in full swing and the global recession just months away. The positivity and expectation felt by our characters has turned into anxiety and pressure. Act Three jumps a further 10 years and brings the story into the present day – a world where the rules have seemingly changed, as typified by Trump, Brexit and the ongoing threat of ISIS.

Paul Smith: making theatre in 2017 is a huge challenge

Through the deeply personal story of Leah, Chris and their families our story examines how it feels to have grown up in the past 30 years in the UK and poses the question of how it’s going to feel for our children to grow up in the world we’re creating over the next 30. It’s about choosing hope, kindness and human connection over the distraction of chasing success or self-preservation. Our characters suffer from the brutal realities of austerity, of class division and the perceived pressure of showing how great your life is on social media. This feels like a dilemma that reaches further than our character’s lives, into the wider world and, certainly, into the upcoming election. Our message is that it’s never too late to change ourselves and the world around us and that, more than ever, the world needs positivity.

The fact that our story takes place in a nightclub in Hull and features live music means that we can hopefully break out of the echo chamber and offer a night out with ideas in it to new audiences who feel alienated by the word “theatre”. We’re keen to ensure that our work is available to all, and as such have offered a number of free tickets to brilliant community-led organisations such as the Goodwin Development Trust. We’re also offering pay-what-you-want tickets for certain nights so that the cost of a ticket is no barrier for attendance.

We’re determined to make work that solves theatre’s image problem. We want to make work that is for the many, not the few and that is a genuine option for a night out to rival going dancing, to the pub or to the football. Only when it is accessible for all can theatre truly claim to be a vital voice in the socio-political conversation in the country. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything is our biggest and most ambitious step towards achieving these goals and its message couldn’t be more timely.

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, staged by Hull-based company Middle Child, is at the city’s Welly nightclub, 6-17 June. Tickets are available from the Hull City of Culture website. Then it’s at Latitude Festival, 13-16 July and Paines Plough’s Roundabout@Summerhall, 4-27 August. There’s a free four-track EP at 

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