This month, Aylsham’s own Daisy den Engelse joins the cast of Alice Back In Wonderland, which is being performed from 26-29 July by Norwich Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre Company. Alex Dalgleish caught up with her to find out what brought her to the stage.
In the show, Daisy will be taking on a dual role, playing the parts of Loreena (Alice’s sister at home in Oxford) as well as Wonderland’s Queen of Diamonds. That can’t be an easy job – if nothing else, it’s twice as many lines to learn! Fortunately, Daisy has plenty of stage experience: “I got started right at the beginning of high school,” she says. “I had a tiny role in one production. It was the smallest part you could possibly have without technically being a stagehand, and I just remember absolutely loving it!
“I took it so seriously, and I just came offstage every night feeling totally elated. I left on such a high – it was absolutely fantastic!”
Previous performers in the Youth Theatre Company’s summer shows have included Sam Clemmett (who went on to play Harry Potter in the West End) and Me Before You star Sam Claflin. That’s a lot of star power to live up to, but Daisy fully intends to carry on acting once the show ends, and she hopes to make it into drama school.
She’s not too bothered about what she acts in, though: “I’ll play anything they’ll let me! I’ll even take a non-speaking role. To me, that’s an opportunity to really focus on what you want to put across to the audience, and it challenges you to manage that without words.”
“On the other hand, the last time I was at the Theatre Royal, I was playing the main character in Antigone. I had about as many lines as you possibly could have in a single play, but it was amazing to perform. It was a chance to get inside the character’s head, because you could see exactly where she was coming from. I loved that.”
So what is it that first brought Daisy to the stage? “There’s nothing else like it!” She laughs: “I’ve tried sports, all sorts of things, and nothing gives you the same feeling. I think acting is an opportunity to step outside of yourself and leave all your problems behind for a while; you can just be totally involved in someone else’s life. If you’ve got the opportunity, you must try it!”
She clearly enjoys it. But the auditorium at Norwich Theatre Royal can seat around 1300 people, so there must be some nerves on opening night. “That’s a real benefit of doing these shows; I’m so much more confident than I used to be. I was actually quite shy.
“These days, I feel much more able to just talk to people, to smile and say hello. And it turns out that you get smiles back – people are actually quite friendly!”
That confidence is going to come in handy this summer. Alice Back In Wonderland is a sequel to the much-loved Lewis Carroll book, which Daisy read in preparation for the role. “It’s a really happy, playful book. It’s full of wonderfully strange things that you’d never expect, and that comes across in our play as well. We’re following those characters a little bit further down the line, and I think that’s really nice.”
The show imagines what might have happened after Alice returns home to boring old England. Despite being determined to follow in her Uncle Lewis’ footsteps and become a mathematician, she’s sucked back in to Wonderland, which is being threatened by the Red Queen and her army of chessmen.
Featuring 280 talented young actors, dancers and musicians, it’s a big show. So what can audiences expect? “They can expect happy tunes, wild dancing and a lot of crazy characters. Expect to come out of it happy – you’ll definitely go home feeling good!”
Alice Back In Wonderland, Wednesday 26-Saturday 29 July, at 7pm, and Saturday matinee at 2pm. Tickets £7-£12. Discounts for Friends, Over-60s and Under-18s. Captioned performance on Saturday29 July at 2pm.
To book, log onto www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000.