The star of Sunday in the Park with George talks to Ticketmaster ahead of its transfer to the Wyndham's Theatre.
1. Sunday in the Park with George is notoriously difficult to sing. How are you finding it?
I must admit that I never thought I'd ever do musicals at all - let alone sing difficult scores like Candide and Merrily We Roll Along. So, singing Sunday In The Park With George is a kind of a miracle! Though, there were evenings after rehearsals at the Chocolate Factory where I wanted to throw myself off Southwark Bridge because I just couldn't learn the piece. Putting It Together and the Dogs are the most difficult; as they are real "show" pieces which are written partly to show an actor's virtuosic skill. That means I can't ever put a foot wrong. I attend weekly singing lessons though - and my teacher helps me get through the week!
2. After your award-winning role at the Donmar Warehouse for Merrily We Roll Along and your new role of George in Sunday in the Park With George, do you feel an affiliation with the work of Stephen Sondheim?
What I love about Sondheim is that he writes thoughts. This is why it's particularly interesting to see actors perform his work. He writes from an actor's viewpoint: the situation and the intention come before finding a melodic tune. In this sense, it's easy to act. You can concentrate on serving the character, rather than creating a "beautiful" sound. In Merrily We Roll Along and Sunday In The Park With George (which incidentally were written consecutively), I also feel that there comes a point in the emotional story where emotion overtakes reason. You find yourself being moved and not really able to explain fully why. The music transports you. I love that.
3. What was your first theatrical experience that made you think "I want to do this as my job"?
Being brought up in (Welsh-speaking) Wales, I was very fortunate to take part in the Urdd Eisteddfod - a cultural festival where young people perform in a range of competitions. I started competing from the age of 5 or 6 and I guess I got bitten by the bug there and then. In the Rhondda valley, there is a great amateur tradition of theatre and my grandmother used to take me to see local companies perform their work in our local theatre, the Park and Dare in Treorci. I remember savouring every moment of being in the audience. I also loved learning and reciting passages from the Bible in Sunday School with my Auntie Doris!
4. What was the last West End show that you saw? Did you enjoy it?
Does the National Theatre count as West End? If so, I went to see Mike Leigh's Two Thousand Years, which moved me very much. The acting lead by Allan Corduner, Ben Caplan and Sam Spiro was faultless and heartbreaking and the play's treatment of family life was instantly recognisable. Before that I saw Mary Stuart, which was the best piece of classical theatre I'd seen in a while. What a fascinating, difficult, epic play.
5. What is your perfect way to spend a day in London?
My perfect day would definitely be during summer and would consist of a mixture of work and play. Maybe a singing lesson before having an alfresco lunch with friends in town before doing something cultural (theatre, film, dance, art) with my partner in the evening.
6. Doing musicals at the Donmar Warehouse and the Menier Chocolate Factory are a very intimate experience. Do you prefer working in these spaces as opposed to the bigger venues like Theatre Royal Drury Lane?
I've only ever done charity concerts at Drury Lane! Though I have done many plays in large theatres like the Olivier and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. To be honest, I love both. One of the great things of being an actor (if you're lucky) is the variety. Why anyone would only want to work in one space is beyond me. I love the change. I love the intimacy of the Royal Court Upstairs (say, 90 seats) and the epic quality of the Olivier. Of course, a different energy is required but both have their pleasures. I'm really looking forward to seeing how Sunday In The Park With George changes at the Wyndhams - a theatre five times the size of the Chocolate Factory!
7. Georges Seurat, your character in Sunday in the Park with George, is a very passionate artist - is this something you associate with?
Yes! I love that quality about him. Especially his passion about his art. Not that I am obsessive about theatre to the point of being anti-social, but passion is a great quality in my opinion. Maybe being Welsh has something to do with that. It's important to have strong feelings about things - all kinds of things (cultural, political, environmental, personal). It makes life worth living.
8. What stage role do you crave to play?
I'd love to play Edgar in King Lear, Bobby in Company, Hjalmar Ekdal in The Wild Duck, The Emcee in Cabaret to name but a few.
9. One of the main themes from Sunday in the Park with George is about moving on. Where are you moving on to?
In life or in work? In life, I hope to move this summer. I would like another room in my small flat! In work, I have started directing. I directed a double-bill of Peter Gill plays last year for the Young Vic and I've just finished a play for the National Theatre of Wales called ESTHER. It's an area of my work I want to explore more and more. So, while I have a few irons in the fire with my acting, somehow directing poses more of a challenge these days... Watch this space!
See Daniel in Sunday in the Park With George at the Wyndham's Theatre from 13 May.