Big Telly Theatre Company's Zoe Seaton: A passion fruit daiquiri is a Recipe for Disaster

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Zoe Seaton, artistic director and co-founder of Big Telly Theatre Company


Up and at it – what is your new morning routine? How has it changed?

I go for a walk on Portstewart Strand or the Whiterocks beach in Portrush every day at 7.30am with a friend. It is a time to take in the amazing scenery, fresh air and stimulating conversation.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

Breakfast will consist of coffee and muesli or else marmite toast.


Usually a sandwich of some sort.

Evening meal?

My daughter is vegan - and a great cook - so when she's home, we eat a lot of vegetables and salads. I'm a fan of lentils and love to make curry.


Have you been able to work from home – if so, how have you found it?

Actually, it's been great. When lockdown came in force, we were running six projects, one of which was a tour of The Worst Café in the World, a dystopian comedy where the menu was full of experiences which were banned: things like travel - and then the cloud burst and the audience were given masks to protect them from the fallout... Who knew? So we cancelled everything, which meant we had 20 freelance artists at home, in isolation, on the payroll. Then, we started experimenting with WhatsApp calls on our phones and that lead to me calling Creation Theatre Company in Oxford and suggesting we reimagine The Tempest (a show I'd directed for them in 2019) on Zoom and it totally took off. Suddenly, we were getting reviews in the Guardian and the New York Times, as well as coverage on NBC and CNN. Since that time, we've made five digital theatre shows, an online soap opera, two pieces of cook-along theatre called Recipe for Disaster, a virtual food festival and a dog show.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

Cheese souffle, baked Alaska and a passion fruit daiquiri - all made during Recipe for Disaster, under the expert guidance of [celebrity cook, food writer and radio host] Paula McIntyre.


Weekend treat?

That's got to be Roughans' Gelato - whipped.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

Working hard, i.e. exciting projects with brilliant people, lots of family time and walks with friends.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

Walking, walking and more walking.


How do you relax?

Reading and binge-watching a good series on television.


Teetotal or tipple?

Tipple - usually Sauvignon Blanc...


What book are you currently reading?

I'm reading a lot of short story collections at the moment for our upcoming show, Department Story, at the Belfast International Arts Festival in October. I'm reading lots by Jan Carson and Roisín O'Donnell, in particular - both brilliant writers.


Best Netflix?

My top favourite is definitely Succession.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

That I'm interested in technology. Especially when it's spiked with live theatre.


On a scale of one to 10, where have you been in relation to cabin fever and where are you now?

I haven't really had time for cabin fever. I'm lucky to live in a very beautiful place, so it's all good.


What are the three things you missed most during the beginning of lockdown?

Visiting friends, hosting friends and shopping... a little.


Where will you go and what will you do when restrictions are fully lifted?

I'd like to visit my daughter in London and go back to my favourite city, Lisbon, in Portugal. Also, now that Trump's gone, I'd been keen to go back to the US - NYC in particular. I've worked with some brilliant people online from all over the world who I'd now love to meet in person.


Biggest gripe?

For the arts to return to the status quo, when so many exciting new ways of storytelling have been tried, and been successful, and reached new audiences who deserve to be included.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I think I've got better at saying, 'No' to stuff, and chasing the things I'm curious about.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I've spoken at a lot of online conferences, so that's definitely a skill I didn't have before, especially in terms of technology. I think that previously I was quite resistant to learning about it, but I've definitely got better at working through things like that. I've also reconnected with a friend who's involved in politics, so I've definitely become more interested in that, especially in terms of solutions and thinking about change.


What would you like to see change for good when this is all over?

I'd like people to celebrate innovation and be braver - more ready to move away from traditional formats and try new things. And I'd like them to be kinder. I'd also like people to be more gentle with each other.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I was definitely scared of dying at the start of it all, so I guess, yes, coronavirus brought that thought a lot closer.

Zoe Seaton's Big Telly Theatre Company, in association with The Commission for Victims and Survivors, will be showing The House – "part-exhibition, part-theatre" – installation at Féile an Phobail today, and also at EastSide Arts Festival on August 7 and 8. Tickets for both venues via

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