On a performance day (the children are on sixmonth renewable contracts and perform twice a week, with a matinee every other week, and are on standby for two) she either eats at home after school, or (ideally) has duck salad in a restaurant near the theatre. 'Everyone thinks I get time offfrom school, but mostly I only leave early for matinees, ' she says. Often she is not in bed until 11pm. She is not allowed sweets or chocolate ('it makes your voice claggy'), and she has to do extra homework to make up for what she has missed. But the theatre is full of friends, and there is plenty of laughter backstage. This has a lot to do with Neisha Blake, the children's chaperone, who has a nice way of teasing her charges.
Performing involves long periods of waiting (for rehearsals, make-up, being on standby), and they occupy themselves playing card games. On the walls of her dressing room are many score charts for Uno. Who's winning? 'Me.' Pause. 'Oh, OK, Neisha.'
Ezrae Maye 11, lives in east London
At six Ezrae Maye was being driven through Newham, east London, when he saw the sign for the Deborah Day Theatre School. 'My mum said, "That would be good for you, because you're a drama king, "' he says. His mother was right. Saturday morning classes were not enough and he was soon going on Thursdays after school, too. In 2012 he was selected for the Lion King Cub Camp, the training pool (two hours a week during term time) for young hopefuls, then graduated to Cub School, which prepares children for the show, where he spent six months learning the part. He debuted as Young Simba, the lion cub prince, in the West End, last December. Every other Wednesday he leaves school at midday, is met by one of his parents (or occasionally his grandmother), who takes him to the theatre ('Mum on the Tube; Dad mostly drives') for the matinee. For evening shows he does a full school day and goes to the theatre after eating in a nearby restaurant - a favourite is burger and chips. He is normally in bed by midnight. 'I'm tired, really tired, after a long day at school, but when I come to the theatre everyone's energy is so up it makes mine go up and then I am excited. Performing is fun, ' he adds, 'it feels like you are a celebrity.'