My name is Polly Pritchard-Davies and I have been teaching drama, singing, and dance to young people (or youth theatre as it’s often known) for 25 years.
At age 19, I started by forming a youth theatre company in Brixham for my final year of a Higher National Diploma (HND) community drama course, and discovered I had a skill in theatre writing when I wrote and produced a play.
After sourcing local funding, I produced a show at the Palace Theatre in Paignton, which was well received. As a result, the theatre manager at the time asked me to start teaching for them, as he’d planned to start a youth theatre company.
And so, the Torbay Acting Factory (TAF) was created.
It ran for 18 years, with over 1000 students coming through the doors. I was able to do what I loved; building the confidence and skills of young people so they can confidently go on to do whatever they want in the world, even if it’s not theatrical.
Many of my past students have gone on to have theatrical or musical careers, but a huge number seem to end up being creative and successful schoolteachers.
Born For The Part
As a naturally shy child, my introduction to the theatre was dance. On doctor’s orders, I was sent to ballet classes to correct my turned-in toes. I also chose to study tap and modern, as was the done trio back then.
I then found my passion for drama as a teenager when a friend asked me to accompany them to an audition for the school show. I hadn’t intended to audition, but was handed a sheet of music and dialogue from a film I had watched repeatedly as a child – Bugsy Malone.
When it was my turn to read, the American accent just emerged and I found that my singing voice could keep the tune well, with the timing and phrasing not needing much thinking about.
It was a revelation.
Being someone else gave me confidence and made my shyness vanish completely.
I beat off strong competition to get the coveted leading role of Blousey Brown, and the rest, as they say, is history!
Give A Little Love...
It has always been my passion to give other shy children the same buzz that being on stage brought me.
Over the years I have had some phenomenal, life-changing results with children of all ages and abilities, and some of the feedback I have received from parents has been incredibly rewarding.
‘My daughter was 6 when she started TAF in 2006. She was so shy that she rarely spoke, but within a year of going to Polly, she was singing a solo, and continued to grow in confidence. I have no doubt that Polly helped shape my daughter into the remarkable young woman she has become.’ – L. Wetherall
After teaching for 18 years and singing in a duo, I joined a Pink Floyd tribute band, playing in some fantastic venues such as Indigo at the O2 in London, and the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
I met my now-husband, and eventually had to retire from touring due to the birth of our child. It was during my maternity leave that my thoughts turned back to teaching.
I decided to start a new youth theatre in my hometown of Brixham, so I wouldn’t have to spend so much time travelling around and being away from my young daughter.
Project Performers youth theatre opened in 2012 to only 25 students, but it quickly grew to 150 students a week – with some students returning from TAF.
We have put on some fantastic shows, such as The Little Mermaid Jr, Peter Pan Jr, Annie Jr, and Into the Woods Jr.
These Junior shows are an age-appropriate way for young performers to have the valuable experience of being in a well-known show, without encountering the more adult themes of some musicals.
So This Is Show Business
In 2018, after running out of costume storage space at home, and after years of hiring rehearsal spaces, I decided the time had come to lease my own premises.
And so, The Spark Studio was born!
With the scope of having my own space, The Spark Studio has become a community arts space for Brixham and beyond.
Extra classes have been added, including ballet, tap, and commercial dance (i.e. pop music style dancing).
The first 18 months also saw film projects, a community choir, birthday parties, themed holiday parties, performances, and craft activities.
Then, just as things were starting to settle into a nice rhythm, COVID-19 struck.
The pandemic hit our school extremely hard, and even though we have continued our classes on Zoom, online performing is not for everyone, and numbers have fallen with each lockdown.
Plus, our secondary school aged students were only 6 weeks away from performing a big show. It was very upsetting after all the work they had put into Legally Blonde Jr, that they would not be able to show off their production to the world.
This term, we have resurrected rehearsals for Legally Blonde Jr online, and are hoping we can perform the show this August, in a re-opened studio.
… And They All Come Back To You
A new term beckons and The Spark Studio will be fully open again after Easter, taking advantage of the large rehearsal space to comply with social distancing guidelines, so please get in touch if you would like to start your child in any of our classes.
We teach children aged 3 and above, and create a safe, happy, inclusive group for people of all backgrounds and abilities to be themselves without fear of judgement.
Many of our classes create friendships that last a lifetime!
‘Polly showed me that my passion was to be on the stage. So many of my memories as a child are at TAF.
‘I have been working alongside Polly for 4 years now, teaching dance to the students and I love every minute of it. Polly started as my teacher at 10 years old, now 20 years later I get to work with my friend!’ – Paris Selly