Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Lily Taylor Ward - potential musical theatre star of the future.

Lily Taylor Ward joined me yesterday for an interview about her involvement in an amateur production of 'Oh What A Lovely War'. This was for Sardines magazine for whom I have been contributing published articles. In the Spring/Summer edition I wrote about my life as a theatre reviewer and conducted an interview with Warwick Davis which made the cover feature. I also wrote about a twinning arrangement between The Lace Market Theatre and two German theatre companies from Karlsruhe. On the back of those I was invited to create and submit a series of theatre related articles and interviews based on the World War One Centenary. Additionally I enjoyed another interview recently with actors Joe McGann, Shobna Gulati and playwright John Godber for their production of April In Paris.

The interview with Lily was split into two parts, firstly an interview for Sardines (to be published in the August edition) about her understanding of the play 'Oh What A Lovely War' and her involvement in it at Nottingham's Arts Theatre and then a personal interview about her talents and ambitions.

I asked Lily to give me a little background of her theatre and singing experience. She came across as a very confident young woman and said “Well it all started properly at this theatre – the Nottingham Arts Theatre – where I got offered the role as little Cosette in a school production of Les Misérables directed by Maggie Andrew. I was about twelve so that would have been about 2008. I'd always been involved in dance and theatre and even as a three year old I was dancing in Teddy Bear's Picnic! I'd always loved to perform and at nine years old I took singing lessons.”

As we sat in the stalls Lily continued with “I was with the youth theatre at The Lace Market and we did a production of The Chrysalids and I had the part of Petra which was a challenging role for an eleven year old. A lot of the cast were older than me and my character was the youngest one in the play and she could read minds which made her dangerous. She herself doesn't understand what is happening to her. It's about powers and manipulation and sometimes the story was heart-breaking. Saying that, it wasn't so intense as Les Mis which I loved being in.”

“As I've got older some fantastic opportunities have opened up like last year I got to chance to sing live at the opening match at Nottingham Forest football ground. They are trying to get more young people involved and I sung in front of a full stadium! Thousands of people! I sang Rule the World by Take That in Italian and Angels by Robbie Williams. All the crowd had their lighters out and were waving them. That's probably been the biggest thing and such a thrill!”

Lily explained that the opportunity to sing at Forest was unexpected and she had been talking with some people there who were keen to involve young people and show talent off at the start of every season. She giggled as she explained that they wanted her to be a kind of singing Guinea pig.

“ I then agreed and later I was thinking 'aaah I've got to sing in front of these people!!'”

I asked Lily how she 'got rid of' the potentially terrifying thought that, as a seventeen year old, you are singing in front of thousands of strangers. She said that she was nervous but her love of singing took over and laughed as she said some actors and singers imagine the audience as vegetables or naked or even imagine there is no-one there to calm their nerves as a performer.

“One person who has really affected my life is my Nan who passed away when I was nine. But she has had a really big effect on my life. In a way you could say that's where my singing started and I used to sit on her knee and we'd sing Daisy, Daisy and all the old time songs together. At her funeral one of my mum's friends was a singer and he was asked to sing. He surprised our family by saying he would do it if I would sing the chorus in 'I Believe I Can Fly'. At the time I was into my ballet classes and dancing. I don't think my family knew I could sing and after I sung at the funeral they were all coming up and asking me why I'd never told them I could sing so well!!!”

From there Lily's Mum Lisa encouraged her to have singing lessons and Lily said that if she hadn't have done that she probably wouldn't have been singing today and she feels great gratitude to her Mum and Dad and her Nan. It must have taken a lot of guts to sing in front of her family at such an emotional event as a funeral.

“Exactly Phil, and it gave me more confidence that what I was doing was right. Every time I perform now I feel that I'm doing it for Nan. She would be very proud that I have been offered a place at The London College of Music – University of West London, and this is a university where I am going to be studying musical theatre for three years. I am leaving for it this September!”

Lily was buzzing with the thought of doing what she clearly loves in a way to enable her to get on a professional level. She has a fantastic website that gives a better insight into the talents and ambitions of this extraordinary young woman. www.lilytaylor-ward.co.uk

“I will miss this theatre and the people though. This is an emotional time because this (Oh What A Lovely War) will be my last show here. I've grown up with this theatre and I think there will be a few tears at the end of it. We've already had a few tears with Mum and Dad. It is happening though and my Mum and Dad have supported me so much. They've always been there for me in whatever I have done and if I turned round now and said I'd changed my mind and didn't want to do it they'd say OK and it is your decision. Don't worry though. That's not going to happen! They truly have done a lot for me. I mean, one of the reasons that they got involved in the theatre is so that they could see me!! I was always out rehearsing and I'd come home excited but very tired and go straight to bed!”

I asked Lily about the structure of the studies she was about to embark on later in the year in London.

“Well, it's a degree and what I'll be doing is the basic aspects of musical theatre. I'll be doing ballet, tap, jazz, singing, acting, improvisation. It is degree based so it a proper university course. I've just finished at Clarendon and got a triple distinction.  With me there were some problems because all around people were saying that I should go to one of the major drama schools like Mountview, LAMDA, GSA or Arts Educational and I'd have loved to have gone to one of those but these is the enormous financial cost. I have spoken to some people who have been on the course I am going on and before I thought 'should I go for this not very well known course?'. I did do some research and the course is set up by drama school teachers for people who can't afford drama school. So it's the same fees as at a university but you get the same quality of education as you do at drama school. I'm really excited now and it has made me so much more happy that I feel I have chosen the right school to go to. Already I go down to London every Sunday to West End master class and my parents drive me there and back. I am so fortunate. It is amazing. I started that two years ago. It is so different down there because you are studying and training with people who want this as a career, like me!”

Lily finished our chat by saying that she loves all her family and friends in Nottingham but she wants to dedicate herself to her chosen career and the first step is in the capital. Lily finished off by saying:

“The training I have done so far in London has boosted my confidence and it can be intense and makes you work harder then you ever thought you could but I love it! The opportunity has opened doors for me and I now have a 'can do' attitude towards any future challenges. ”

I thanked Lily for her time and wished her all the best in her performances this week in 'Oh What A Lovely War'.

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