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  • Writer's pictureEvie Osbon

Purdah: Freeing Ourselves from Expectations

Written by Octavia Nyombi


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


Pictured Left to Right: Evie, Antonis and Jay

A first day readthrough is common among many traditional theatre processes. While this project aims to be different in many ways, a readthrough of the R&D script was exactly what we did on our first afternoon. This begs the question:

Is it possible for us to operate outside of the traditional hierarchical structures of the rehearsal room, while simultaneously overlapping with traditional rehearsal activities?

One of the team reflected on this in their post R&D feedback, highlighting that:

“Working less hierarchically than in a conventional rehearsal room - but still in the rehearsal room environment is something not completely new, but less familiar. It feels good to have the place to explore what works and doesn't work with this way of working, things to think on for sure.”

The set-up of the afternoon started with an emphasis on wellbeing and getting to know one another. This afternoon was my first day, with the rest of the team having been rehearsing since 9:30am. Having come through the turbulent winds and rain, after a delayed train making my walk to Nottingham Playhouse doable but tight, this easing into the room allowed me to naturally grow in confidence with this new group of people.

For example, director, Velenzia led us through a 2 minute silence where we were free to stretch out, sit, lie down - do what we want for ourselves. I took this opportunity to grab myself a much needed glass of water, which I had initially felt too inconvenienced to get, because I didn’t want to delay the rehearsal by even 1 minute on my first day. Velenzia took the opportunity to pace around the room, while Evie also broke out of their chair. Our movement quickly normalised and encouraged everyone to take up space, rather than sit solemnly in silence for 2 minutes pretending to think retrospectively.

Evie and Velenzia assigned everybody their roles for the reading, but caveated it saying this was “not the final casting… There is no pressure, we are just reading the words to hear them out loud.”

Although I had not been hired as an actor, I am an actor outside of this process. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised and excited to have been assigned a few characters to read for. I saw this as my opportunity to play with the characters, and lift the words off the page. It would be wrong not to admit however that a part of me did want to impress as an actor, and prove my creativity in the room.

From left to right: Antonis, Rhys, Kasia, Octavia, Jay, Holly & Vanessa.

In addition, our wellbeing practitioner, Victoria Firth, highlighted to us that using traditional theatre terminology could pose a challenge. highlighting that the words “cast” and “casting” were end-product focussed. These words were implying that the suggested casting was code to say that these suggestions were close to the final casting. To combat this, we kept switching the roles between everybody across the week, equally between those hired as actors or in different roles.

Long-term, this experience encourages us to question what terminology we use.

Can we find words that refer to the collective of the company, keeping roles clear whilst also promoting flexibility?

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