Perhaps one of the most extreme things Daniel Ings (Theatre Studies, 2008, Bowland) has ever had to do was fill in for Benedict Cumberbatch at six hours notice in the National Theatre’s production of Frankenstein, only two years after entering the acting profession.
Daniel had a small part as well as being Cumberbatch’s understudy when he got a call at 10am on a Saturday to say the lead had laryngitis. Daniel was on stage at 2.30pm and then again at 7.30pm. He had done one full run through the day before. “That was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” he recalls. “I went on about six or seven times for him in the end. I played Frankenstein and Johnny Lee Miller played the monster, because the monster was really the lead role in the show. I knew then that it was a very special thing. A big lesson for me was watching how those actors interacted and the director worked together to create those performances”.
“The Lancaster theatre studies course was quite 'out there', he explains. “The University was on the circuit for a number of contemporary companies, who visited to explore the process of putting on a play with the students. I didn’t understand everything but it didn’t matter. I learned a lot.”
He is currently filming Scrotal Recall series 2 for Netflix, in which he plays Luke opposite Johnny Flynn and Antonia Thomas. It’s about a man (Flynn) who relives his love affairs after being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. Following that, Daniel has a quick role change to play Mike Parker, a naval friend of Prince Philip in The Crown (also for Netflix).
He was brought up in Wiltshire, and went to a school which excelled in drama and gave him the opportunity to play in well resourced productions such as Amadeus and Lord of the Flies. The experience helped him win a hotly - contested place at the National Youth Theatre. He opted for Lancaster rather than drama school because he felt he needed the opportunity to grow up before joining the hurly-burly of the acting profession and friends already there sung its praises. Even after a gap year and travelling the world, he was unprepared for the unconventional demands of the Lancaster course.
In the second year he started devising theatre with others and felt that he really started to ‘hit his groove’. In his final year he spent two terms on a production which he regards as an experimental high point, giving him a chance to write and find his feet in the rehearsal room. He says “I do my best work taking a practical approach. One of the cool things about Theatre Studies at Lancaster is that if you are academic you can choose those options, but I was able to steer my course in a practical direction.
His social life was entered around the Theatre Studies course, on which he met his partner with whom he now has a baby son. He admits he also spent a lot of time in the bar with fellow students from his course. After graduation he went straight into a National Youth Theatre production of Tory Boyz at the Soho Theatre, from which he gained his first agent. He started training at the Bristol Old Vic but left the course early as he started to win roles, notably a small one in Pirates of the Caribbean. This was filmed in the rain in Greenwich, but taught him to ride a horse work with Richard Griffiths. He has also played geeky Kelvin alongside Imelda Staunton in BBC 2 comedy thriller Psychoville and Zach in the 2016 film 'Eddie the Eagle'.
Daniel owes his family life to Lancaster University, but also regards it as having formed an important part of groundwork for his career. He says “Lancaster gave me a safe place to experiment with and investigate the extremes of theatre, and helped give me an understanding of writing and directing, both of which I would like to pursue more in the future.”