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  • Writer's pictureEvie Osbon

Purdah: Co-creating with our Creative Mentees

Written by Octavia Nyombi


For an audio version of this blog, please click this Soundcloud link:


So what are Creative Mentees? As part of the process, we hired 10 young people between 18-25 to collaborate and co-create with us during our R&D. Each Creative Mentee joined us for 2 afternoons across the 5 days, and I liaised with them to book times that were workable for them around their schedules.

“Enlightening, Joyful and Collaborative” are the three words one of our Creative Mentees, Amelie Davies, chose to describe their time with Purdah.

Creative Mentee, Lily Banks also seconded “collaborative” in her three words, while another Creative Mentee described their time as “exhilarating, queer [and] chill.”

Taking Amelie Davies as a case study, they describe how they “enjoyed splitting off into smaller groups to discuss/work on a scene, and then sharing what we had found and discussing further.”

Splitting off into groups.

Pictured Left to Right: Rhys, Kasia, Jay, Luwa, Kathrine, Amelie

Each group explored different moments in the world of Purdah. Some of these moments had been scripted, other moments had not. Either way, we were encouraged to put the scripts down and improvise different versions of these moments.

On day 3 each group had been assigned a director to support this playful process. My group was assigned Amelie.

We wanted to test out what would happen if we brought 2 contrasting characters together in a one-to-one scenario. Initially I was told I was playing Emma, and truthfully I had very little recollection of Emma from the readthrough on day 1. Having Amelie supporting us however, meant I felt comfortable to flag this with them and ask questions… lots of questions… and begin to fill in the gaps about these characters together.

My scene partner, Rhys took Dave, an elderly security guard buzzing for his upcoming retirement from the jobcentre. I was playing Emma, who Amelie explained had intended to work at the job centre for just one gap year, but had ended up staying for 15 years. Through our discussion we found the central question of our scene:

What would happen if we brought Dave in, who can practically taste his retirement and new-found freedom alongside Emma, who feels trapped and unfulfilled in her job?

Amelie’s support and suggestions took me from feeling vulnerable and completely unsure of how to approach Emma as a character, to feeling comfortable and excited to play around with the improvisation. The fact that Evie and Velenzia took a step back from creatively directing us, and allowed others to do so, meant I did not feel rude admitting my lack of understanding.

Moreover as Evie was also immersing themselves as an actor, it had been comforting the last few days to have seen them make mistakes, mis-read lines and not know the play inside out yet. Evie had kept reiterating “it’s okay to break away from the script, and it doesn’t have to be in order.” Evie and Velenzia went on to model this in their approach to joining in activities. The choice to allow Creative Mentees to direct us, reinforced the sense that this process was not being driven by one person’s vision. Rather, we were discovering and defining our vision of Purdah together.

Amelie went on to thrive in this freedom, and break away from the original brief and text further. They suggested that we try the scene with a new context, where Emma shares news that she has got a new job as a music teacher, allowing her to relate and rejoice to Dave’s brimming excitement in escaping the job centre.

Amelie’s feedback reflects this growth in confidence, explaining:

“I have never formally directed in a professional setting before, and it was really brilliant to be given the opportunity to try this! At first I was a bit apprehensive but I got into the swing of it with the support of Velenzia and Evie!”

Before joining us, Amelie had told me that most of their work and training had currently been in acting, yet they were questioning if that is the sole route they want to take. Amelie felt they were maybe interested in directing and co-creation roles, but had never done this before so could not truly know yet. The fact that Amelie identified this to us, and then came away having been trusted to direct without interference or being told how it should be done, is a fantastic measure of the growth that can be made when trying to work as non-hierarchically as we can. Amelie went on to say:

This was so valuable to somebody trying to get more professional experience as a creative in the industry, and it has given me a much clearer view of what I want to do in the future and also shown me a new way of working and devising collaboratively. Thank you so much!


Some Final Thoughts from the Team

Kathrine Payne, Performer

I really liked 'jamming' with the creative mentees, that felt really fun and exciting and like anything could happen. It was great to be able to have that many people in the room all pooling their skills.

Kathrine & Amelie “jamming”

A Creative Mentee

It was my first time doing R&D and I really enjoyed the focus on exploration and play. It was also my first time working in a queer space and I loved it more than I though I would. The joy and freedom of talking about queer experiences and characters and the fact that we were all on the same page about it made me feel really safe and just happy. I'm so excited to see this show come to life.

Pictured below left to right:

Ashlea, Antonis, Kathrine, Rhys, Careese, Amelie, Octavia, Jay.

Kathrine Payne, Performer

I hadn't done co-creation with mentees before. That made me feel empowered as a performer and very confident in my experience and skills. I felt like I could quite easily facilitate alongside others, ensuring the mentees got the most from the experience. I thought me and the other mentors worked really well together in the room.

Antonis Christ, Creative Mentee

The team has been impressively supportive, cute and dedicated to providing a new raw piece of work.

Rhys, Jay & Kasia playing as the ‘Toffs’.

A Creative Mentee

I loved the game we played at the beginning and end of each session - what object we are - I think it was a great way of checking in/out and saying how you feel without having to explain it? I thought it was great.

Kathrine Payne, Performer

I like playing games and getting to know the creative mentees individually. It was great to be able to bring people along for the process, and benefitted both sides which was great, rather than just using 'outreach' as a tag-on to get funding, which I've seen before.

Lily Banks, Creative Mentee

I had a brilliant time


If you've enjoyed reading about our joyful co-creation, come along and see some snippets of the work at our sharing on Thursday 8 June, 7 - 9.30pm at Nonsuch Studios.

You can find out more information about the event and how to grab your tickets on the PURDAH section of our website.

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