Award-winning actor Lucie Shorthouse on playing Pritti Pasha in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, diversity in the industry and life in Streatham
Lucie Shorthouse is clearly one of those people to grab life by the horns. The Cambridge University graduate has just won the What’sOnStage Best Supporting Actress In A Musical award for her role as Pritti Pasha in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Shorthouse embraced the creative scene while at Cambridge, and then trained for three years at Italia Conti, where, she says, ‘I really found my groove. it was probably the most formative time in my life in regard to finding out who I am.’
The Streatham resident studied straight acting and, despite the award, plays down her musical theatre abilities: ‘I’ve danced and I do sing and act, but I’ve never considered myself a triple threat. Maybe after this contract’s up I could classify myself as one,’ she laughs. ‘It’s been a great challenge.’
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. which won Best Musical Production at the UK Theatre Awards 2017, tells the inspiring tale of Jamie, a 16-year-old boy who lives on a council estate in Sheffield and overcomes prejudice and bullying to step into the spotlight and become a sensation.
‘As an actor you pray you are involved in something that actually you feel matters and hopefully this play is doing that and breaking the mould, which is quite humbling to be a part of really,’ smiles Shorthouse.
‘We are in a weird, divisive time politically and it feels nice to be a part of some work that is trying to unify us and enlighten people. The public have really got behind it, and it’s life affirming and it gives you a bit of faith that people are all for this progress.’
Shorthouse plays a Muslim character in the show, something that isn’t often seen in musicals. ‘There is a duty of care to do it right and to do it as sensitively as possible, and she’s not a token character at all. She isn’t a gimmick and we don’t bring up her faith just for the sake of it.
‘I talk about wearing a hijab in the show and it’s a really important moment to me as an actor, for the character, but also for the audience to hear someone say that they are wearing it because they want to, not because they are oppressed or a victim. It’s a privilege to be able to say that every night to be honest.’
Shorthouse tells me how she feels that the praise around the show is wonderful, and that the most important thing after all is how it makes the audience feel.
I’ve had feedback from people who have felt displaced, or a bit of an outcast, and they’ve said that the show made them feel that everything was going to be okay
‘I’ve had feedback from people who have felt displaced, or a bit of an outcast, and they’ve said that the show made them feel that everything was going to be okay,’ she says. ‘We’re bringing people together, and it feels amazing to be a part of this campaign.’
I wonder if Shorthouse has any concerns about diversity in the industry: ‘It has certainly got a lot better,’ she says. ‘This industry has a lot of trends and when I started drama school it was very much the period drama trend.
‘I remember being concerned over what roles I could have, apart from perhaps a maid. Fortunately there is a dialogue about diversity now, so there is a paradigm shift and I haven’t experienced a huge obstacle in terms of casting. But I do know that it’s out there.’
So what does she love most about the show? ‘Maybe the message of it, that it’s not just about accepting and tolerating. I don’t like the word tolerating as it’s almost like it’s said through gritted teeth,’ she says.
‘It’s about celebrating who you are. The relationships between Jamie and his mum, and Jamie and Pritti are ones of unconditional love. It kind of feels like we’ve made some sort of social progress all in one venue.’
So where does Shorthouse hangout during her downtime at home in Streatham? ‘I’ve got a lot of actor friends who live here in the area and we’ve got the Hideaway Jazz Cafe that offers a creative hub,’ she says.
It’s about celebrating who you are. The relationships between Jamie and his mum, and Jamie and Pritti are ones of unconditional love
‘There’s always arts and crafts fairs and it’s encouraged around the area. It’s a residential and friendly area with a spirit of community, which I like. I love going to Streatham Common and going up to the rockery.’
So what’s next for Shorthouse? ‘I recently filmed a tiny cameo with Sheridan Smith in a new ITV drama called Clean Break and that will be shown around autumn/winter I think,’ she says.
‘I’m trying to take little opportunites that keep my creative juices flowing, although obviously my focus is on the show, but I’d love to do more TV and film work in the future. I just want to keep learning.’