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  • Writer's pictureEvie Osbon

Purdah: Starting our Queer Co-Creation R&D

Written by Octavia Nyombi


Welcome to Part 1 of the Purdah R&D Blog!


 

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



 

The R&D of Purdah came to mean queer co-creation and celebration! It is a glorious glittery show, made by a kind, queer team.


Set in a time of political uncertainty, Purdah is about finding your place in the world. It follows Mir, who is socialised as a woman and realises they are Genderqueer whilst working in a binary, tick-box and oppressive Job Centre. Purdah is set in a reality where computers talk; where virtual life and real life are blurred, allowing us to peer into Mir’s mind and lived experience.

In the process of making Purdah, we are building on learnings from our previous co-creation project, UPLIFT with young carers across Mansfield & Nottingham.


Kicking back against oppressive, capitalist work targets, our process aims to prioritise and embed wellbeing practises. We aim to champion process and outcome equally, embedding flexibility into rehearsals to meet the needs of everyone.


Kathrine, Amelie and Luwa collaborating.

We recognise that it is impossible to have a completely non-hierarchical process, by the very nature of logistics such as: who has written the words, who was in the audition panel, and who is paying everyone.


This 4-part blog will reflect on how non-hierarchical we were able to be in our research and development (R&D) week. It will be reflecting on our key learnings, evaluating how far we met our co-creation aims.


 

Overcoming Those First Day Fears


Our first team photo.

Pictured from upper left to right:

Velenzia,

Rhys,

Octavia,

Jay.

From Bottom left to right:

Evie,

Kathrine,

Luwa.


As performers and creative people, we find ourselves in new cities, with new people, new characters and new stories to understand and tell. While this is a lifestyle choice, it doesn’t change the first day jitters!


Uniquely for Purdah, every day until our last was a first day for someone. Often with quieter mornings, and a larger team to play with in the afternoons.


To ease this transition our producer, Evangeline Osbon (Evie) took the lead on communications with the cast before rehearsals, while myself (Octavia) took the lead on communicating with all 10 of our Creative Mentees, as Outreach Producer. We sent personalised emails, taking time to have phone calls with those in our pool, finding solutions to any barriers identified or anticipated. For example, for those travelling from outside of Nottingham, I organised meeting them at the train station beforehand to travel to the R&D venues together.


Evie and the director, Velenzia Spearpoint, also hosted an informal zoom meet & greet session the week before the R&D, to offer an additional opportunity to meet the team ahead of everybody’s first days.


No matter how much we do, however, there is no escaping the first day nerves of a new job. To manage these nerves throughout the week, our director, Velenzia established a routine of exercises for us to start each morning and afternoon with. One of these exercises encouraged us to anonymously share our Hopes, Fears and Offerings for the day.


This encouraged us all to take a moment for ourselves, and note down on a Post It:

  • Something we were hoping for

  • Something we were fearful or nervous of

  • Something we would like to offer to the team and/or process that day



Everyone in the room took part in their own time, and seemed to be really giving in their responses. We popped our answers to these provocations onto a larger sheet of paper, where we could anonymously see everyone’s hopes, fears, and offerings all together.


Some of the fears noted down were “Imposter Syndrome” and the fear “That I don’t belong here”. It was a useful task to get a sense of how everyone was feeling, reinforcing the need for our gentle approach. For me personally, it was comforting to see that I was not the only person in the room worried about this. One of the Creative Mentees agreed in their feedback, explaining:


I…loved the hopes/fears/offerings notes, it put my mind to rest knowing that everyone is worried about their role and contributions and that we're there to help each other out and work together and no one is going to judge how you work/your contributions.


Another activity we did each morning and afternoon was to re-introduce ourselves. This included our names, pronouns and a little about what we do artistically. During a reflective moment in the R&D, we had a conversation questioning whether the regular occurrence of pronouns was a little too frequent. However, throughout the week, we found that the team actually responded really well to these introductions and that they felt necessary. This was because we always had new people in the room to get to know. And for those who were not new, it also offers a reminder, as often we are unable to take in so many new names and pronouns on our first day.


We found that by re-checking in with everyone’s pronouns, we were acknowledging flexibility for change. For example, one of the artists mentioned that “some days I may introduce myself as she/they, whereas others I’m they/she and I may one day try they/them”. Therefore by normalising this fluidity of gender, our team were able to feel empowered to bring themselves and own queer experience into the process.


Our cheeky first glance at the Nonsuch Studio

(where our sharing will be on 8th June - BOOK HERE)!


(Pictured upper left to right: Jay, Rhys, Vanessa, Steph, Antonis, Kasia, Holly. Pictured upper left to right: Octavia, Venezia, Evie, Kathrine, Ashlea)



Part 2 coming soon… reflecting on Accessibility!


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