I started training when I was five and I went to the Jean Butterworth School (which is a ballet school in Worthing) because I am a local boy. At the age of nine I started with the Royal Ballet and I did two years with them, where I was auditioned for and got the part of Cupid.
I performed with their company in the Royal Opera House for a season which was really nice. It was great because it was a noted part which is especially special at that age. Then when I was eleven I went to the Hammond School in Chester. I was there for five years and did my GCSEs there.
That must be tough, doing the dance training and the schooling at the same time?
It was. Our days were from 9am to 6.30pm every day from the age of 11 and then we went back to the boarding house, but it was good. Then two years ago, after my GCSE’s when I was sixteen, I got a flat in London and started training at Millennium Performing Arts and I am now in my third year. Hammond and Millennium really formed the base of all my dance training. They got me to where I am now and that’s why I appreciate them so much.
So you have always known what you want to do?
I have never wanted anything else, ever.
For this part I understand that there were open auditions
I heard about the auditions and I originally wanted to audition as a dancer. I didn’t think in a thousand years that I would be what Paul Hammond was looking for. Then I heard that they were auditioning for Peter and that they had not cast him yet. I thought that I would go for it and if I was not right for the part then I would try for a dancer.
After I auditioned, the people from Heart Radio gave me a ring while I was at college, which was nice, and told me that they wanted me for the part. They had had nearly 100 applications. I was really, really happy when I heard that I’d got the part and it really did boost my confidence to come and give a good show
This is a very slick production. How much rehearsal time did you get?
We got ten days and I had not met any of the other cast before, apart from meeting Wendy briefly during the auditions. About three days of that was flying, but they weren’t full days. It was about four days into rehearsal that they said, “Do you want to have a go with flying?” We did it and I was quite comfortable up there. Some people find it really difficult, but I think my dance training helps a lot with the core stability
What is Darren Day like to work with?
He is absolutely diamond to work with. He is so lovely and down to earth. He is always smiling and asking how you are. He is a really nice guy.
And after the pantomime, what next?
I am going to finish my time at college. It ends in July, so this is my last year. Maybe in April I’ll start auditioning for shows. I’d love to get a West End job or a tour. I should have a diploma in musical theatre, which I will top up to a BA Hons, but a lot of this is learned on the job.
You get a lot from college, but I have learnt so much from this job. Paul Hammondwho, despite the name, is nothing to do with the Hammond School I went to, is amazing to work with. He gives you so much as a director and I would love to work for him again.
James- Royden Lyley is playing the title role in Peter Pan at Worthing's Pavilion Theatre until 1 January 2012