Monkey Motivation: Lily Dodsworth Evans

Did you know that autumn 2020 marks our tenth anniversary? As we look forward to the next decade of Fourth Monkey (and beyond), we are also taking a moment to reflect on how far we have come and we couldn’t do this without our awesome alumni!

To help us celebrate, and to help us inspire any prospective Monkeys, we have spoken to some of our Two Year Rep and Year of the Monkey graduates about their experiences of training at the school, any advice they might have for our next cohort of students, and where their training has taken them since they graduated… 


Here, Lily Dodsworth-Evans, a 2014 graduate of the Year of the Monkey training programme, shares with us why she decided to train at Fourth Monkey and gives us an insight into the film and television work she has done following her drama school journey…

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 knew I wanted to be an actor when I was very young and had been part of a couple of theatre companies over the years leading up to Fourth Monkey. Whilst I was doing my A-levels I realised that University wasn’t something I was interested in. I had applied mostly to please my parents and give myself some options. When I got my acceptance letters, I realised I really didn’t want to go. The plan was to defer my university places, take a gap year, maybe get a job, save some money and audition for drama school the following year. If I didn’t get in, I’d go to university, art school or figure something else out.  But then my drama teacher at college recommended Fourth Monkey, as a former student had attended. I auditioned and got a good vibe. The audition felt relaxed – I had a good talk with Steve and I really enjoyed the workshop. So, when I was offered a place, I took it! 

(Image: ‘Poldark’ – image credit, Mike Hogan)

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?

Most of my memories are from the Edinburgh Fringe festival. I think in total there were five Fourth Monkey shows on there, so we had a big presence. The intensity of the Edinburgh Fringe is like a shot of adrenaline. I think I probably slept five hours a night – if that – for a month. However, being surrounded by so many creatively talented people was very inspiring. People come from all over the world and the shows are so incredibly varied, there was so much to see and do. There’s a wonderful sense of community and as it was the final stop for my Year of the Monkey, it left me excited to see what was next. 

Most of what I learnt was from the shows we did. Rep theatre is challenging as you’re always tired and you have to switch back and forth from rehearsal rooms, constantly taking notes on context, character, changes in blocking, as well as evolving the characters as you learn more about them and those around them. I think this ability to adapt to situations is important as an actor across all areas. You’re constantly going into new rooms auditioning for people you don’t know very well, then after a few hello’s you have to be incredibly vulnerable in front of them. Sometimes you have another audition the next day and the day after that and have to repeat the process all over again. It’s like you’re constantly cramming for a test. It’s exhausting but honestly also part of the fun. 


(Image: ‘Poldark’ – image credit, Mike Hogan)

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 remember being really excited by the physical theatre training and the clowning and movement training. When I left Fourth Monkey, I was looking at doing more intensive training in the practices of Lecoq and Gaulier, hoping for a career in the theatre. But then life happened and I ended up falling into screen acting – the complete opposite. I have no regrets, but who knows what I’ll do in the future. 

(Image: ‘Dracula’ – image credit, Robert Viglasky)

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 career has been in television and Film so far. It’s all been a highlight from my first role in a TV show to now (pre-lockdown). Each experience has been vastly different from the last, and I’ve been very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with cctors, directors and producers whose work I admire and grew up watching. 

I worked on one film in which I had a very minor role – I was in the last five minutes of the film. The shoot was two days, one to rehearse and one to film. The brilliant Simon Curtis was the director and we shot out on a race track in Florence. The weather on the day of filming day was golden! And there’s something about being in the pit lane as a F1 Ferrari speeds past so fast you can feel the vibrations run through your feet up your body, that leaves a lasting impression. On days like that, I go home on a high. 

Most recently I was in a show called Dracula. It was so well written and brilliantly cast! Every person who worked on that, from the writers, director, cast, make-up, costume, crew etc. were excited to be at work every day and that’s pretty special. No-one had an ego and it was just a joy from beginning to end. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to have worked with many brilliant people across every job I’ve done. 

(Image: Still taken from ‘Dracula’)

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?

Working in this industry I have no idea what the future holds, but that’s the beauty of it. There’s never a dull moment and every job is different. 

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?

I’m not sure what I’d be able to tell you that you haven’t already heard. Most of you will have parents who, although are supportive, are worried about the security of the job. Some will think that it’s just too much of a risk and try to persuade you into another field.  

I still think of something a friend once told me; “As long as it makes you happy, keep doing it. When it stops being so, stop”. It’s not quite that simple – but yes, when I am actually doing the job, I am incredibly happy but the times when I am not working, I’m less so. This piece of advice did help me realise the importance of stepping back though, re-evaluating my priorities and motivations.

A few of the more experienced actors I’ve worked with have said, “to be sane in this industry, you need to have a life outside of it”. That is probably the most important piece of advice I’ve ever been given, so I give it to you. Keep your eyes open, learn and be inspired by everyone around you. Be humble, treat everyone with respect and enjoy every minute when you are able to do what you love.    

Finally, I would say surround yourself with like-minded people to create your own community bubble. Many of my closest friends are those I’ve made from jobs and training. Some of my friends from Fourth Monkey aren’t actors anymore – they are agents, writers, producers. A few aren’t in the arts industry at all, but have gone into entirely different fields. 

However, regardless of what they are doing now, they’ve all helped me in some way. I recently visited an ex-Monkey in Berlin and after a long day exploring the city, she helped me go through sides for a recall I had when I got home. The gems you pick up in this industry, both in experiences and in the people, you meet, are some of the brightest. It’s important to have people around that keep you inspired and understand the turbulent world you’ve stepping into. People who can take a bad day and reassure you that it was just one bad day and tomorrow will be different. People who are excited about the possibilities of the future when you are unable to see them in that moment. 

(Image: still from ‘Poldark’)

Finally, a topical question – how have you been staying creative in lockdown?

Mostly, I’ve been reading. I’ve finally got around to all of the books and plays that have been collecting dust on my shelf. Some of what I’ve been reading is ‘DNA’ and ‘Love and Money’ by Denise Kelly, ‘An Intervention’ by Mike Bartlett, ‘The Descent of Man’ by Grayson Perry and I’ve just started ‘Replay’ by Ken Grimwood. I was also recommended some great podcasts and audiobooks, such as ‘Love Stories’ by Dolly Alderton. 

More creatively I’ve rediscovered drawing and painting; helping me switch my mind off and focus on what’s in front of me. 

I think as amazing as it is to use this time to be creative, write that play or TV pilot and watch every NT live production – it’s unrealistic to expect so much of yourself. There are those who will do all of this and that’s great for them, but we are living in a moment in history that no generation alive has ever experienced. Life has been put on hold and changed dramatically and its unrealistic to expect so much of yourself. I talked to my agent at the start of the lockdown about using FaceTime to create self-tapes and that there wouldn’t be the best sound quality. He said people shouldn’t expect normal when we are living in abnormal times, and I’ve applied this to pretty much everything. Do what you can to stay inspired and creative but mostly just do what you need to stay safe and sane. 

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