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Creating safe spaces on our Theatreworks courses


Two women sitting on chairs in a rehearsal room in a circle with other people. The woman on the right is speaking and seems to be explaining something to the group. The other woman looks at her and listens.

Whether we realise it or not, the physical and emotional spaces we occupy all play a key role in the way we anticipate, react to and navigate any given situation.

Anyone involved in a stage production understands the importance of using both the literal and figurative elements of space and how they can impact the delivery of a line, the emotion of a scene and, ultimately, how the audience reacts to the performance.

Theatreworks participants and facilitators share their thoughts on the importance of creating safe and judgement-free spaces on our courses.

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Experimenting in a safe environment

With its roots in rehearsal room techniques, the work we do at Theatreworks counts the importance of space as innate. This can take the form of practising how to command more physical space to elevate your status, projecting your voice to be heard in a busy environment, or simply by creating a safe environment for experimenting, learning and making mistakes to build greater confidence in the workplace and in life.

We often receive feedback from participants that taking part in a Theatreworks session at the National Theatre itself is hugely positive; that it provides both a physical and mental departure from the office, allowing them to embrace a more creative perspective and immerse themselves in the experience.

As Millie, a recent Theatreworks participant, noted:

‘the rehearsal room space is a great way to experiment safely.’

A woman, standing in a rehearsal room and looking at someone on her left, and a man, next to her, explaining something with hand gestures.

Photo by Emma Hare

Building trust

This level of comfort takes time to develop, however, and several of our participants have expressed feelings of trepidation upon entering a Theatreworks session for the first time, unsure of what to expect.

As Theatreworks facilitator Kate Beales explains:

‘Many participants are nervous of the rehearsal room environment, and worried about what theatre-based training is – they’re afraid we’ll shove them into the spotlight, or even make them be a tree! Often, they don’t know each other, so it’s all quite daunting.’

These nerves are completely natural and precisely why every Theatreworks session begins with a series of exercises designed to build trust between everyone in the group, transforming the rehearsal room into a safe space.

Cultivating trust and maintaining it throughout the session allows participants to step out of their comfort zones, embrace their vulnerability and, ultimately, get the most out of the experience.

A vital rule of thumb is not to cheat the trust-building process. If we rush through the introductions, or leave out an ice-breaker, we might compromise the level of trust, and affect the atmosphere in the room.

-Kate Beales, Theatreworks facilitator

A judgement-free zone

Recent participant Ana Maria described her experience during a Theatreworks exercise:

‘It felt liberating. I felt free being able to express [myself] without the fear of being judged or any repercussions whatsoever.’

It is this liberation and freedom from judgement that our facilitators strive to achieve in every session by working with each cohort to create a safe space. Building this trust encourages everyone to take part freely and provides the ideal environment to practise delivering, receiving and applying feedback from their peers.

Facilitator Al Nedjari sums this up:

‘Unlocking these fears is part of the process – my role is to be generous, supportive and responsive, to nurture a solid sense of community in the room; to help create trust. This allows everyone to examine their true selves in a safe space and transform any fear or trepidation they feel into something positive and empowering.’

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