'The play's the thing'; Is Highly Sprung Exceeding Expectations?

May 14, 2018

Highly Sprung is a physical theatre company based within the recently named city of culture, Coventry! Myself, a current Royal Birmingham Conservatoire student who is training within Millennium Point – The Birmingham School of Acting. When I was presented with the prospect of a six-week placement, I wanted to explore a theatre company that did not just focus on acting but rather a small scale company who are constantly evolving to create dynamic thought provoking work in different communities. Cue Mark and Sarah the co founders of Highly Sprung.

Over my first two weeks I have witnessed and participated in workshops that Highly Sprung have tailored for different age ranges across the region. These workshops are facilitated by a small group of practitioners who dedicate their time to create outstanding work in diverse communities. I can confidently assert that all of the practitioners working for Highly Sprung are equally committed to the work that they are creating collaboratively with the community. There is no question that the heart of Highly Sprung is in the right place. This statement is supported through feedback that I have been informed by from audience members, teachers, participants, witnessing the one giant leap project and the general community.

The One Giant Leap Project is a creative series of workshops. It is offered to years three and four across the region as a start for creative work that children of this age may not of been a part of before. It offers a unique way of learning and can highlight the positive aspects and gains of kinetic learning. There is always a sense of ownership from the children that are involved that it is their own work and ideas. It is inspirational to be a part of such encouraging work in communities that have not experienced theatre before. The One Giant Leap Project has enabled me reflect on my own personal practise and I have witnessed how rewarding and valuable this type of work is. I have had the benefit of being able to taste what it would be like to work within this field when I graduate.

The standard of work produced by Highly Sprung is innovative, collaborative and spectacular. I have had the pleasure of watching two professional shows. The first PALS Coventry Performance and the second Fall Out. These two productions are a prime example of why the arts industry needs to keep investing in new and upcoming work. Fall Out has successfully created a discussion around the topic of mental health through raising vital awareness and highlighting support that is available. The use of physical theatre and the unique set of skills that is demanded for this piece is immense. Fall Out is original work, which has been created by Highly Sprung and has been executed beautifully. Fall out and PALs is a perfect example of how a play can create discussion enabling us to identify the human condition. I believe that this is where Highly Sprungs talent for emerging pieces of theatre prevails. Highly Sprung are at the top of their game when devising new and exciting work. It is clear this is where the company excels. Highly sprungs work would be a real asset to any city or town that they tour.

I have also had the pleasure of working with the Sprungsters, these weekly sessions are facilitated by different full time members of staff. This mixing of facilitators enables the students to gain different knowledge and learning each week. The result is outstanding as a new dynamic is brought to the room each week. I have personally witnessed the development, support and encouragement that the young students are exposed to which is essential in todays society. There is a real sense of community spirit amongst everyone at Sprungsters with no divide between friendship groups or ability. This is a beautiful achievement and a credit to the group as this environment is not common across other youth theatre groups. It is encouraging to see skills being passed on to the next generation of performers.

On a personal level, I have been constantly learning as the weeks at Highly Sprung have gone by. Each session I have learnt something new whether it is a game, a different way to facilitate or how young people learn best. I have constantly been awake, alert and open to new creative ways of teaching. I have also had the pleasure of witnessing professional practise when creating new work and how to successfully conduct and apply myself. None of this would have been possible without the help and guidance of every team member I have met along the way. Something that has been drawn to my attention is the administration side of Highly Sprung. I have slowly realised there is a lot of hard work, time and perseverance that goes on behind the scenes. I was not fully aware of how much time administrative practises can take. I have gained an immense amount of knowledge and have accessed full support from every company member. I have been welcomed into Highly Sprung with complete acceptance and because of this my experience has always been positive and enjoyable no matter where I am.

Overall, Highly Sprung are successful with their aims they have created. And are actively creating evolving and beautiful work across Coventry for all to access and not just a few.

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