Samanya - Learning About Services Through Drama

The Teenage Pregnancy Coordinator in Nottinghamshire commissioned 'Samanya drama' to develop a play that addressed teenage pregnancy, sexual health and relationships. It was initially used in Pupil Referral Units and with groups of vulnerable young people and is now used at secondary schools in areas of deprivation.

What has been really special about this project is that it has allowed time for meaningful relationships to develop between the cast, the young people, and the teachers and support staff in the school.

The first step is for the cast to run a training session with the teachers, learning mentors and school nurses. This is an opportunity to explain the process and share some new techniques that can be used to do follow up work.  The next step is to run 5 sessions with a group of young people. They may be from Year 8, 9, or 10 and some single sex sessions are run.

The first session is really important. It is a planning session. It includes games and exercises and an introduction to the characters. The Samanya actors find out what is important to the group and what they know already.

They do a language game called 'words on the street' using post-it-notes. Young people write down the first word that comes to their head - to describe aspects of relationships. After the session these words are filtered into the script. Every performance is then tailored to the group - making each production unique. 

The workshops that follow show sections of the story of Jason and Sharmaine and the different expectations they bring to their relationship and the miscommunications that follow. This prompts discussions about:

· boundary setting
· sex, contraception and emotional responses to early sex
· sexual health services

The audience advices the characters about what they should do. They like having the role of the advisor - it turns things on their head - it really makes it work as they are not being told what to do. In the last session they get certificates of achievement which is a boost to self-esteem.

Signposting to services
Samanya collect leaflets about local services from the local resource centre. They hand them out at relevant points in the project - and spread them out over the weeks rather than giving them in one big bundle. The leaflets are given out as prizes in games and so the young people go home with them proudly. Feedback from young people after the session is positive:

"I learnt… where I can go for help about sex"
"I learnt…  more about sex and how you can get help with any problems"

In some of the schools and Pupil Referral Units that Samanya work with sexual health services are available on site. At one secondary school the school nurse is involved in the drama work and runs follow up sessions with groups that want to know more. There is also the opportunity for young people to see the nurse one-to-one during the lunch-time drop-in sessions.

Samanya were highly commended in the 2006  Pamela Sheridan award, run by the fpa.

Contact: Manya Scarffe, Samanya Drama