Fresh from Arts Ed, Daniel Grice makes his professional debut playing the title role in the world premiere of Glenn Chandler’s The Boy Under the Christmas Tree at the King’s Head Theatre. What are the challenges of playing a character with no identity and no past? Read our interview with Daniel below – and then get booking!
The Boy Under the Christmas Tree, written and directed by Glenn Chandler, runs at the King’s Head Theatre from 11 December 2018 to 5 January 2019, with a press night on 14 December.
When aspiring comedian Lawrence Bennett wakes up on Christmas morning, after a bad gig and with a king-size hangover, and finds a handsome young man almost naked under his Christmas tree, he wonders if Santa has finally delivered. The beautiful youth doesn’t know how he got there or what his name is or where he came from. The doctor thinks he might have had a bang on the head. The local copper suspects he may be a wanted criminal. As for Santa Claus, he’s on another planet.
Newcomers Jamie Loxton (recently graduated from ALRA) and Daniel Grice (Arts Ed) both make their professional debuts in the production, playing Lawrence and the titular Boy, respectively. The cast is completed by Sam Sheldon as The Visitations.
The Boy Under the Christmas Tree runs from 11 December 2018 to 5 January 2019 at the King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, London N1 1QN, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 9.15pm, Sundays at 5.15pm and special matinees on 29 December and 5 January at 5.15pm. Tickets are priced £11-16. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!
Talking to… Daniel Grice
Daniel is a Brighton boy, born and raised. He is new to the world of London and acting, just like the boy under the Christmas tree himself! He has just graduated from Arts Ed Drama School’s TV and Film course. This is his first role out of drama school.
Tell us about your character in The Boy Under the Christmas Tree.
I’ve never met a character quite like The Boy. Most characters have pasts and experiences, but The Boy starts the play as a near complete blank slate with all the curiosity and endearing innocence that comes with that. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is looking at the whole world through curious fresh eyes, learning about everything for the first time. But don’t get me wrong, The Boy is no fool. He knows exactly what he’s there for. He may have no past but he knows what’s in his future and he’s already an expert in it. He’s that intoxicating mix of intriguing innocence and experienced confidence that the rest of us would need a Christmas miracle to pull off. But he is the perfect boy after all.
How do you get to grips with a character with no identity & past?
That did pose its own challenge as often we actors love to delve into the characters past to see what makes them who they are. But the script gave me everything I needed because, without their past, characters can be defined by their actions, objectives and choices, and The Boy’s are clear in this play. His goal of being the perfect boyfriend for Lawrence imbues him with this great sense of curiosity as he desperately soaks up all the information he can: learning, growing and developing his own personality to match Lawrence’s own. It’s fascinating to see a character go through such a change in such a short space of time.
The production marks your own professional debut. What was the audition like?
My audition process for The Boy Under the Christmas Tree was unusual. Glenn Chandler and I had been introduced by a mutual friend and over tea got talking about work we had coming up. Glenn realised I was what he had in mind for this part so I showed him my showreel to prove I could, indeed, act and once our mutual friend vouched for me, Glenn sent me the script. I had no formal audition we just struck a chord, and I’ve been thrilled to be working with Glenn ever since.
I was the first person cast, which meant I read in for The Boy when Glenn was auditioning actors for the other two roles. I was blown away by how high the standard of the auditions, so much so that, while Sam Sheldon and Jamie Loxton did fantastic auditions, the choice still wasn’t an easy one. What I learned from that is the most important thing for an audition is bold choices, even more so than learning your lines. It’s not a memory test and most directors are happy for you to have the script in your hand as long as it means you’re in character rather than trying to remember the words. I also learned that, if you don’t get the job, it’s likely because of factors completely out of your control like how well you fit with the director’s vision or how well you might work with the rest of the cast.
If there’s an actor reading this who’s not gotten their last few auditions – as happens to us all – I hope it helps to know it is almost definitely nothing to do with your talent and nothing to do with you.
What would you advise aspiring actors thinking of applying to drama school?
I would advise applying to as many schools as you can. Drama school is not like uni. For most drama schools, there are over 100 applications per place – and for some, it’s nearly 400 or more. I applied to seven drama schools and was very lucky to get into one. I would suggest more if you can.
I would also suggest doing your research. Some drama schools specialise. For example, ArtsEd is known for its screen training, whereas RADA has fantastic classical training. Going to as many of these auditions as possible is crucial because it gives you more chances, of course, but also more experience. It’s a simple fact that, with each audition, you do you get better and increase your chances.
Also, remember at these auditions, you’re auditioning the drama school as well as the other way around! You won’t know if a school is right for you until you walk in for an audition. Same with a job or a director. If it’s not right for you, don’t settle. And don’t be discouraged if the first three or five or ten auditions don’t go your way. That’s the nature of the business. I know people still auditioning after three years who are fantastic actors. It just goes back to what I was saying earlier, whether you get the role or get into drama school is often due to factors out of your control. Prepare as much as you can and no matter how long it takes, never give up. It’s your dream!
What are your own plans for Christmas day?
I will likely be having a much less dramatic day than Lawrence in the play – unless I’m on Santa’s good list and find someone under my tree! I’ll be spending Christmas in Cambridge visiting my family for good food and quality family time. I couldn’t imagine a worse hell for Lawrence and The Boy, but for me, it’ll be my own perfect piece of paradise.
Looking further ahead, what other roles would you most like to play?
I have a few but my absolute dream role since I was a little boy was to play The Doctor! With his (and now her) thousands of years of experience, The Doctor may well be the most complex and layered character I’ve ever seen, and certainly on family TV. From an actor’s perspective, The Doctor is at once, the genius, the fool, the innocent child and the weary old man. The Doctor has the weight of experience and yet, as an alien, sees the world through innocent, new eyes, just like The Boy Under the Christmas Tree does. And that’s just his character. In no other show can you be in deep space one day and on a pirate ship the next.
As an actor, I soak up experiences. Most people never get the privilege of waking up under a Christmas tree, but that is wonderfully part of my job. A role like The Doctor fills your life with the most varied, strange and wonderful experiences. And, most importantly of all, Doctor Who teaches children about love, loyalty, friendship, science, history and to approach things that are new and different and that we don’t understand with wonder not fear. It’s my dream to be part of that.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Too often these days we look for perfection, expecting to find it or for it to drop into our lap, like magic. Perfection is not found but made. Whether that is in relationships or life. Come and see The Boy Under The Christmas Tree, and as well as having a great laugh, you’ll know what I mean.