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It All Started In The Car

So, a few months ago, Sheree asked me to write a blog post about how Savvy has changed since I’ve been a member, and considering I’ve been a member for 8 years this seemed quite a daunting task! Anyway, today I had an epiphany; instead of writing about how Savvy has changed since I joined, to instead write about how Savvy has changed me since I joined. So procrastination of 4 months over (sorry Sheree), here we go!

I should start with a little of what I was like before I joined Savvy, to get across just how important and how big of an impact Savvy has had on who I am today. I was 13 when I joined Savvy, and 13 year old Adam had just been diagnosed with depression, had very little self confidence and a very small handful of friends. If you’ve seen any of our last few shows, this probably sounds quite a stretch from the high-heeled Widow Hood, or the Mailman screaming at the top of his lungs from the top of the Clocktower in central Croydon.

My sister was a member of Savvy before me, so I’d seen some Savvy shows and had wanted to join for the longest time, and had been pestering my mum at every show about joining, and so when I was 13 it was time for my first Savvy session. I remember my mum drove me to the Secombe Theatre in Sutton for a mask workshop during half term, and I also remember telling her in the car how much I didn’t want to go in and how I had changed my mind about wanting to join. Nevertheless she convinced me to at least go in for an hour, and if I didn’t like it to call her and she would come and get me.  8 years later and I’ve still never made that call! I was horrendously nervous, but I remember as soon as I stepped into the room I could feel the comradery and kindness oozing off of everybody there. It was definitely the best decision I almost didn’t make.

Fast forward 2 years, so I’m 15, in the middle of my GCSE’s, and Savvy is easily the highlight of my week – a safe place where anything I was stressed or worried about suddenly didn’t matter for 3 hours. I knew I could be myself because of how accepting and inclusive everybody was, where I had probably made the closest group of friends I’d ever had up to that point and where I was regaining a confidence I’d forgotten I had upon starting secondary school. By this point, I think I’d done 4 shows if I remember correctly, and although the rehearsal process can be hard work, it is insanely enjoyable, and the payoff is tremendous.

There’s no feeling quite like the mix of emotions you get upon finishing a run of a show you’ve spent months preparing for, the excitement and nervousness just before you step out on stage. (or river, balcony and tree in my case) The exhilaration once it’s over and you’re bowing for the curtain call, and also the bittersweet sadness at the fact you’ve just said goodbye to a show you absolutely loved performing. You also feel massively closer to all your castmates, with everybody feeding off each other’s energy in the changing room afterwards. I don’t think anything creates a bond quite like it.

The shows we do at Savvy have always been something a bit different and special. From mask and puppetry, like Brillig; a devised piece for Surrey Youth Drama Festival, about an adventure through a strange and mystical land. To interactive theatre with The Spy Project, a parody spy drama set in the 60’s taking the audience in and around central Croydon, having them follow clues sent to their phone to find out where the next scene would take place.

Within just my first few years at Savvy I had learned and experienced so much. Having taken shows to various different festivals, including Guilfest, Surrey Youth Drama Festival and National Theatre Connections Festival to name just a few, and having done a numerous amount of different workshops and masterclasses to develop skills such as stage combat, mask and improvisation. These are skills we have regular refreshers of, and even 8 years later there is still so much to explore and learn within them, and we all have incredible fun doing it!

Let’s now go forward another 2 years to where I’m 17 and just about to join the Adult Company. Again I’m feeling a little nervous because I have no clue what to expect, a little hesitant because of a worry that I might just be treated like a child, as I was only 17 and the oldest member at the time was in her 80’s! It was a hugely different age gap to the 5 year one I’d experienced at the Young Company, but, once again, as soon as I went to my first session I was greeted with huge smiles to put me at ease, and one or two familiar faces from past Young Company members who had moved up a few years previously.

My first impression of the Adult Company is that they were incredible, kind and talented. A group of people you could tell gelled fantastically, even though they were all from many different walks of life. The Adult Company was so different from the Young Company, but also exactly the same; a group of great people, and a place everybody knows they can be themselves with no worry of being judged or excluded. It only took one or two sessions before I felt fully settled in to the Adult Company, and was enjoying it just as much – if not more so than the Young Company!

I suppose I should start wrapping up as this has started to go on a bit, which I guess brings us to today, where I’m 21 and writing this blog post. 21 year old Adam, in contrast to 13 year old Adam, is extremely confident, not afraid of being himself no matter where he goes, and I think most importantly of all; happy. I believe for the most part I owe that to Savvy, I’ve been given a bottomless bucketful of lifelong friends, invaluable skills I use on a daily basis, a countless number of experiences I learned from and can now only look back on and smile at, and a future of I-don’t-know-what experiences that I’m already looking forward to and smiling at. Savvy genuinely has changed my life forever, and I know that I wouldn’t be anywhere near the person I am today had I been more stubborn sitting in that car 8 years ago.

When you join Savvy you become so much more than just a Savvy Member, you become a member of the best second family you could ever have, with support and experiences you could never forget, with people that might just be some of the best you could ever meet. As I’ve said, I’ve been a member of Savvy for 8 years, and I can only hope to still be a member of Savvy for at least 8 more! Saying that though, if life ever got in the way, and I did have to leave for whatever reason, I know that I’m a lifelong member of the Savvy family.

So to answer Sheree’s original question about how much Savvy has changed since I started, to be honest, I don’t think Savvy has changed all that much over the last 8 years, at least Savvy’s values are the same. At its core Savvy is and always has been an inclusive, unique and professional theatre company with incredible members. All that has really changed is the scope and scale in which we are able to do things! (Bring on Fairfield Halls!!) For instance, we’re now able to and have definitely put on much bigger and much better shows than we could’ve done 8 years ago. Saying that though, although I don’t think Savvy has changed all that much, as cheesy as it might sound, I do think that Savvy changes every single person who becomes a member, for the better.

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