Interview: Daisy Lewis – 'My drama teacher said it would be better if I didn't shout'

Interview: Daisy Lewis – 'My drama teacher said it would be better if I didn't shout'

Daisy Lewis in Silence by Moira Buffini

As the National Youth Theatre gets set to begin its 2017 auditions, the Downton Abbey star discusses her time with the prestigious arts organisation

As the world's longest-running youth arts organisation, the National Youth Theatre has a long and proud history of training the next generation of acting talent. The likes of Colin Firth, Ashley Jensen and Daniel Day-Lewis have all walked through their corridors. As the 2017 audition season begins across the country, another of its alumni, Daisy Lewis (whose TV credits include Downton Abbey and Doctor Who), takes time out to tell her own NYT story

When it came to gaining entry onto the National Youth Theatre training programme, was it a case of 'if at first you don't succeed … '?
Yes – I was 13 when I first auditioned, so I was probably just too young. I'd been in school plays but didn't know how to audition. I was too nervous first time around and could barely get the words out, but they were very kind to me. They told me that it was obvious that I had talent but maybe I wasn't ready to live on my own in London without my family and do an entire course. And they were right.

What was your initial reaction to that rejection?
I cried and swore under my breath a lot, and thought that I'd never do it. But with the encouragement of my drama teacher, I got the wherewithal to try again. I put more work in second time around, was less nervous, gave it a bash and it paid off.

What did the actual audition entail?
They ask you to choose a three-minute monologue, a long and unbroken speech. At the time, Faber printed a book of monologues for female parts; I found some words that spoke to me and helped me understand where that person was coming from. I then learned it and got my aunt and mum and sister to listen to it.

Did anyone give you any hints or tips?
My drama teacher told me that maybe it would be better if I didn't shout and to not throw a chair at the casting director. So, I did that piece in front of three people and eventually received a letter to say that I'd had been accepted onto the training course.

How did it feel to leave your family behind?
I went to London on my own with a little suitcase and I cried a lot. I was staying in a hall of residence and London was just the most exciting and frightening place I had been to. The little village in Dorset I came from didn't even have a bus stop! London has quite a few, and something called a Tube.

What advice would you give to those taking part in the National Youth Theatre auditions?
The National Youth Theatre want you to be yourself, so the key to your monologue is that it should speak to you. Don't try to put on an accent, don't try and do any clever stuff: what they essentially want is you.

Any other advice?
Don't think you can't do it and don't think that everyone else who auditions isn't as terrified as you are, because everyone is. The trick is also to know that the worst that can happen is that you have to audition again the following year. The best that could happen is that you get the most incredible opportunity of your life.

And the great thing with the National Youth Theatre is that it doesn't matter where you come from, it doesn't matter about your race, your religion, your gender, your height: there is space for everyone.

To find out where auditions take place in your area, go to nyt.org.uk/auditions

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