In West End smash Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Lucie Shorthouse plays Jamie’s plucky best friend. Here, the award-winning actress takes centre stage talking to Shelley Carter
Winning a WhatsOnStage Award voted for by the public for your West End debut would be dreamy for any young actor or actress, but for the Midlands own Lucie Shorthouse it was just the icing on the cake. Critically acclaimed Everybody’s Talking About Jamie was Lucie’s biggest job to date having most notably filmed a cameo in Clean Break, appeared in Doctors and played a victim in In The Line of Duty as well as featuring in The Sound of Music Live.
She relished her first musical theatre role playing Jamie’s supportive best friend Pritti Pasha and embraced the West End musical with gusto finding the experience ‘everything she imagined it could be’ with a ‘dream cast’ to boot. With five Olivier Award nominations under its belt, there’s now talk of the production going Stateside and if she was asked to cross the pond with it Lucie would jump at it.
DRAG QUEEN AT 16
Directed by Jonathan Butterell, the play was inspired by the 2011 BBC Three documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 and was written by Tom MacRae with music by Dan Gillespie Sells. It’s inspired by the true story of Jamie Campbell, played by John McCrea, who grew up on a Sheffield council estate struggling to fit in, feel accepted and ultimately be himself. Lucie explains: “It’s just about people celebrating their own truth with all the trials and tribulations that go with that. Diversity, authenticity, sitting in your own truth, that’s liberating and it’s joyful.”
Among the wealth of rave reviews, the Independent describes it as ‘a joyous punch in the air about following your dreams and being yourself’. The workshop for the show was the first professional job Lucie had with no guarantee she’d actually be cast, but she remembers thinking even then it was something special and a story that needed to be told.
With Muslim characters vastly under-represented on stage, Lucie was thrilled to be bucking that trend and felt a responsibility to do it right. She explains: “Pritti is not the token Muslim girl in a hijab. She’s a rich, rounded character that’s integral to the story who is not defined by being a Muslim. And I love how open-minded she is.” She adds: “It’s a responsibility to be playing a character you don’t see that often and I know there’ll be young audience members who are seeing themselves represented on stage for perhaps the first time.”
VICTORY FOR DIVERSITY
When Lucie won the WhatsOnStage Award for best supporting actress she saw it almost as a victory for diversity. “It was a public vote so I didn’t think I had a chance. It suggests the public wants to see more of this sort of character.” Not that Lucie gives much time to dreaming of winning awards. “That’s not why I do it,” she says emphatically.
She’d also rather not be famous although we suspect it might be too late for that such has been the popularity of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Having said that, Lucie says nobody recognises her without her character’s hijab, so she can fly under the radar a bit.
As a shy child who danced a bit, although apparently with ‘bad feet’, Lucie grew up in Tamworth where the ‘only other brown people she saw were her own family’ who moved from Kenya and settled in the Midlands. “I’m really proud to be from the Midlands and I come home as often as I can. There’s so much space and the theatre scene in Birmingham is rich and exciting. I’ve lost my Brummie accent though except when I’m angry or drunk! It comes out then.”
Lucie got into drama at school and then university. She studied English and Drama at Cambridge and says modestly: “I was quite academic.” Having thought university would get the drama bug out of her system, Cambridge Footlights only served to fuel the love and after graduation Lucie enrolled at Italia Conti in London where she studied for two years.
SPICY MARIA VON TRAPP
She trained in drama not musical theatre at Italia Conti and didn’t see her career going down that path particularly, not that she’d turn it down in the future, but Lucie would love to do more TV work too. She says: “TV is so exciting at the moment and the quality is so high. It’s a lot more technical. You don’t necessarily film things in order. I’m still learning to master that.”
Lucie’s focus is making exciting work like playing a ‘spicy brown Maria von Trapp’ – a reference to her role in Sound of Music Live. Top of the wish list for the future would be working with Charlie Brooker. “He’s a genius – Black Mirror is so clever,” she says.
There are ‘down-times’ as an actress and Lucie is philosophical about that. “I got very down about it in the past, but it’s important not to put all your self-worth into your job, there is more than that.”
Lucie’s energy, warmth and obvious talent have got us excited about what’s next. For what it’s worth, we predict more great work followed by the very things she doesn’t desire a great deal – awards and fame – sorry Lucie!