Downton Abbey star Daisy Lewis has urged Sheffield youngsters to audition for the famous National Youth Theatre, saying it changed her life.
Daisy’s training at the longest-running youth theatre in the world, celebrating its 60th anniversary, has led her to star in exciting productions on stage and screen.
She has been seen in Doctor Who and ITV’s Lewis and played teacher Sarah Bunting in Downton Abbey.
The young actress has been directed by Academy Award winner Julian Fellowes and has also produced two short films, Snap Shot and The Door.
She said: “The NYT’s the only reason why I have a career. I don’t come from a background which is anything to do with the theatre.
“I come from Dorset from a village. When I said to my parents ‘I want to be an actress’ you could have heard them laughing from the next village.”
Then her drama teacher put up a notice at school about the National Youth Theatre and encouraged Daisy to give it a go.
“They said ‘no’ the first time, ‘we don’t think you’re ready. You’ve got talent, go and do a bit of work, then come back and see how it goes’.
“I got back on the train in bits and decided I never wanted to be an actor again. I had my tantrum, then pulled myself together,” she said
“By the grace of God or whatever, I got myself into an amateur group, did some work and planned what to do at an audition and gave it another go.”
This time Daisy was accepted, despite turning up with a toilet seat her mum had asked her to buy while she was in London!
She described the NYT as a “home for talented misfits”.
She added: “The theatre has long been the home for people who don’t feel they have a home anywhere else.
“I have a lovely home and an amazing family and made a completely different one by joining the NYT.
“Growing up in a village where there’s not even a bus stop, I had never seen anyone who didn’t look pretty much exactly the same as me or had a different accent to me or wasn’t Church of England.
“Then suddenly I found myself at the age of 15 in London, which blew my tiny mind away.
“I was working alongside other kids from completely different parts of the country and whose experiences were completely alien to me.
“That type of experience is invaluable. It taught me that you need to look for the similarities and not the differences in people.”
Daisy spent her holidays over the next seven years learning her craft, as well as falling in love for the first time and “changing the world one play at a time”.
Highlights included Sir Ian McKellen coming backstage to thank her for her performance and working at the Kneehigh theatre in Cornwall, living in clifftop caravans.
Daisy said to local youngsters thinking of auditioning: “It’s a level playing field. Give yourself the opportunity – don’t limit yourself. Don’t listen to the voice in your head that says ‘you can’t’ because you can. Tell that voice to get lost!”
Daisy appeared at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield four years ago in The Way of the World. She said: “It’s an amazing, vibrant place.
“I hope there’ll be some Sheffield people who are representing the city when it comes to audition time. We need people from the great cities. Life is not all about London.”
The auditions will take place at Sheffield Theatres next February 23 to 25. For more information, go to National Youth Theatre