Monkey Motivation: Darcy Willison

As we start looking towards our upcoming tenth anniversary in Autumn 2020, we will be catching up with members of the Fourth Monkey alumni community, both from our Two Year Rep and our Year of the Monkey training programmes, for an insight into where their training has taken them and to share any advice they may have for prospective students…


First up is Darcy Willison, a Class of 2018 Two Year Rep graduate, who has shared her experiences and memories of her time spent training with Fourth Monkey, as well as some of the creative projects she has been working on since she graduated… 

What made you choose Fourth Monkey for your actor training? Had you completed any other training before joining the school and, if so, can you tell us a little bit about how the two compare?

I took a gap year following school in which I didn’t do much, and following that auditioned at about 10 drama schools across the country where I had a few waitlists, tons of no’s and an offer to study on the foundation course at The Oxford School of Drama. I loved it there, and re-auditioned to get back on to their BA course two years running, but after being in the final round both times, without an offer, I kind of gave up and thought maybe I should try a different career path.

For some reason, I thought this path was English Language at university but after about eight weeks at King’s College I was bored stiff and started looking at different options. A couple of girls I had trained with at OSD had studied at Fourth Monkey and after reaching out to them both and getting their advice and insight, I auditioned and I guess the rest is history… I was actually really unsure, and apprehensive. I was still kind of set on studying at a ‘conserverstorie’ and Fourth Monkey felt new and different, but the moment I stepped foot in that building, and met the Directors Steve and Charleen and heard in their words what Monkey was all about, I was sold. I felt like people believed in me, and wanted to help me be myself – I felt empowered. It felt like I was in control of my development as an actor, and that I would leave knowing myself, and my craft, a lot better.

Can you share a few personal highlights and memories that stand out from your time training at Fourth Monkey? Were there any practitioners who have influenced your creative choices or any classes that have stuck with you since you graduated?

Italy was an experience I think I’ll take with me forever. Aside from the training, it was a really great time to spend with the ensemble, and I felt like we all grew closer on that trip. However, the ultimate highlight is easily Edinburgh. We had spent weeks, sweating and grafting and we made something so special. And by the time we got there, it was really ours. I have so much pride associated with that show and closing our two years together, with a re-imagining of our first ever public performance, just felt perfect. In regards to the training, the pennies are still dropping.

I definitely use my Meisner training everywhere, and I think it’s made me bolder as a performer and a person. Mime with Guillaume was so hard and I really hated Wednesday mornings in first year, but I can safely say I am confident in almost any movement audition and I owe so much of that to him. I also was really bad at Clown, and Steve Sobal made me realise how seriously I took myself, and I am still, slowly, learning to do that less. The Voice classes changed my life. That sounds ridiculous, but they really really did. Sarah, Vicky and Harriet helped me connect to myself and text in ways I have never found before and I learnt how to be so much more open thanks to them. All of the directors I was lucky enough to work with, did the almost impossible job of getting me out of my own way, calling out my bullsh*t and pushing me to breathe. I really can’t think of any class or show that didn’t teach me so much, and there are lessons that I am still learning thanks to practitioners who I will be grateful to forever!

Before you started your training at Fourth Monkey, what were you most excited to try or to learn more about? Did this shift or change as your training progressed, and have these interests been reflected in the choices you’ve made in your work since you graduated?

I was really scared of movement before. I hated movement classes and had zero connection to my body. I just didn’t know how to use it, or understand it, so I was really looking forward to all the movement. As I implied in my answer to the previous question, I fell in love with voice classes and I became so interested in connecting to breath, but Meisner just blew my mind. Watching the exercises were as exciting as doing them and I would sit on the edge of my seat for the entire class and be gutted when it was over. I try to use the lessons in everything I do creatively, and not only do I think it makes me better to work with, but it makes it so fun too.

Tell us a bit about what you’ve been working on since you left Fourth Monkey – what have your professional highlights been? Are there any interesting collaborators, projects or shows that you can tell us about?

My first job out of Fourth Monkey was Lord of the Flies at The Greenwich Theatre with Lazarus. I was extremely nervous (bricking it, if I’m being honest) for the audition, but I knew that Ricky Dukes (the director) had worked with Monkey students before so I felt confident that my training would have me prepared. We started with a movement session and I just felt so comfortable, like it was the perfect show for me and that everything I had done for the past two years had led to a show like this. I got so lucky with this cast and show and team. It was the most amazing 5 weeks and I think I’ll treasure it forever.

I was also lucky enough to jump into Macbeth with Lazarus in February, back at The Greenwich Theatre. For various reasons, I only joined the cast for the last week of rehearsals, but it all felt so familiar, and I really loved performing at Greenwich again.

Empty In Angel is a one-woman show that I started working on in November of last year and it’s still going! We opened to a sold-out run at The White Bear Theatre and will be coming back later this year, although obviously dates permitting… I’ve never done anything like it in my life, and I think it’s got a long old life ahead of it so I’m excited to see where it goes! It’s been a game changer not having other actors to play off, but I’m hooked on the constant connection to the audience.

(Photo credit: Empty in Angel, Bec O’Connor)

As your creative career progresses, what are you hoping to work on or create in the future? For example, are there any collaborators you’d particularly like to work with, any theatre or arts genres you want to experiment with or try?

I’d love to get back into Film and TV, though that world still feels a bit scary. I’ve actually quite recently started singing in an indie-pop band, which is totally unexpected but a total blast. I have always sung, but never really had a place to do it, and I have really landed on my feet with Liar Liar. We released our single a month ago, and are set to have two more releases this year. If you check out our latest music video, you may even catch a couple of Fourth Monkey alumni…

(Liar Liar photo credit: Benjamin Parry) 

What advice would you give to any prospective students preparing for their audition or gearing up to start their actor training in September? Likewise, do you have any advice for our students who will be graduating this summer?

It’s such a cliche, but be yourself. It is the most welcoming, encouraging and supportive place I know, so take the chance to let yourself be seen. Easier said than done, I know. Pick pieces that you believe in, and that you love performing. There are zero expectations or obligations in regards to what you should pick, so do something that you actually like.

Graduating students, be kind to yourselves. It is true what they say about 90% rejection, and it feels like you’re being punched in the gut a lot of the time, but you’ll also meet some really great people through all the highs and lows. Turn up on time, work hard and be kind to other people. 90% of my jobs in the last year have come from being asked back by people I’ve worked with before, so your reputation, if it’s good, is a major lifeline. Also, be confident. You have the same right to be in a room than anyone else, never sell yourself short.

Finally, run it like a marathon – if you sprint you’ll get really tired and frustrated, and what’s the point of playing the game if you aren’t enjoying it…


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