My first show for Highly Sprung was 10 years ago. It was called “Chalk Door”, and performed at the Belgrade Theatre as was part of the first ever Physical Fellowship. To this day “Chalk Door” hangs in my memory as one of my favourite pieces of performance I have ever done. I remember waiting back stage before the show; the audience was packed with young people, a similar age to myself, 16 years old (for me then, this was the worst kind of audience). We could hear them chanting and laughing, whistling and shouting out rude words in an expulsion of nervous energy. It felt like somebody had arranged a competition for “who could be the funniest person in the audience” and everybody had entered. I remember standing next to another member of the company, a 15-year-old girl who was shaking. It’s funny how your nerves disappear when you feel somebody else needs you to be strong. I grabbed her by the shoulders and told her it was going to be okay. The look on her face didn’t give me any hint that my words had been helpful. I felt a strength within myself, within the other young people who had worked hard to make the show, within the professional artists who we were sharing the stage with and finally with the directors, Sarah and Mark who had invested so much time and effort to give us the opportunity to perform.
I walked on stage, I don’t remember anymore chanting or joking after that. Good theatre has the power to hypnotise people. All I remember is enjoying myself, despite wearing the brightest yellow t-shirt I had ever seen. Although this was my first show with this group of people, it was like they were family, like I had just been inducted into the larger collective of past, present and future like-minded teenagers.
I remember the rush of coming off stage after receiving an rapturous applause, the smiles on the professional artists face as their pride escaped into the atmosphere, the feeling of fulfilment as you realise that you did it! Life becomes much easier then you choose to step onto stage 4 nights in a round in front of 100s of people you don’t know. What’s the worse that can happen? You go through all the possibilities in a blink of an eye and then you take a breath, and you step out on stage and deliver the lines you have be practicing for weeks.
10 years and many shows later, I am back at the Physical Fellowship. I would be lying if I said it was my first time returning, in all honesty I couldn’t stay away, but this time it’s slightly different, I am an associate artist of Highly Sprung, a director/choreographer and have made a piece on 2 different schools that will be part of the show. No additional advice, no assistance, no script to read and be inspired by. All content created by myself and the student performers taking part. As a child you think that adults have it all sorted, they are adults after all, but that same feelings of nerves are starting to creep in and the same feelings of, ‘I must be strong’ has already created a face of confidence for the sake of the young performers. I hope I have managed to inspire these young people the same way I was inspired 10 year ago. I hope they revel in every moment on stage, that society’s grasp and preconceived notions of what they should or shouldn’t be doing as teenagers doesn’t stop them from being brilliant. I know I will watch from the audience with my heart in my mouth, speaking every line and doing every movement but regardless of what happens, I hope they have fun and cherish their moment in the spotlight. I hope it teaches them that fear is just a barrier trying to prevent them for being the best version of themselves they can be.
Physical Fellowship is more than a platform for young people for perform; it’s a gateway to confidence, and taste of the professional theatrical world and a glimpse at the potential of young people when they are fuelled with belief and the opportunity to shine.
Physical Fellowship is a platform for young people, performed by young people. Physical Fellowship is a platform that invests in the future.
Whilst writing this, the revelation about the importance of opportunity and belief hit me (again).
I want to say a huge thank you to Sarah and Mark Worth, Directors of Highly Sprung. They have pioneered physical theatre for young people, committed countless hours to applying for funding to support opportunities for young people and have inspired many young adults in finding a voice or discovering an inner strength and resilience that they didn’t know was there.
You have been instrumental in my life and I want to personally thank you for investing time in me. I speak for many over the years when I say, your support and kindness have open many doors of possibility that may not have been discovered without you and the projects you have created.
I will leave you with some very simple and the yet poignant words spoken by Mark Worth to myself when I was 16.
“You’re amazing. I’m not sure you know that, but you are”
The tenth Physical Fellowship runs Monday 24 - Thursday 27 June. Tickets are limited