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Actor Lucie Shorthouse: ‘Playing a Muslim character in a musical is a big responsibility’

Lucie Shorthouse. Photo: Kim Hardy

Lucie Shorthouse’s first professional role in the industry was a workshop for the musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. She tells Giverny Masso it was a “dream come true” to take the show to the West End…

Who do you play in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie?
I play Pritti, who is Jamie’s best friend. She is a girl who happens to be a Muslim, not a token, she is a fully formed, rich character. She is the best friend everyone deserves to have. It is such a gift but also a big responsibility to be playing a character you don’t see that often, particularly in musical theatre. There are certain references in the show to Asian culture, and you know that there are young audience members there who are seeing themselves represented on stage.

How did you get involved in the production?
The workshop for the show was my first-ever professional job. Just being part of the workshop does not mean you will necessarily stay on with the show though. It was such a learning curve for me. It has been an absolute dream to originate a role in the West End, it has been everything I’ve imagined it could be and more.

What do you love about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie?
It is a home-grown British musical. This show is very important in terms of the messages it has, particularly when it comes to younger audience members. It is really affirming. I do think we need to make [theatre] a lot more accessible to speak to younger people and not to isolate them. Working with John [McCrea, who plays Jamie] is great. He gives you something different every night, so I never get bored. It is just an absolute dream cast.

How did you get into theatre?
I always wanted to perform, and I started dance classes when I was younger. I went to Cambridge University and did English and drama, thinking I’d do a bit of drama on the side, thinking it would be enough. I then got involved in the university theatre scene – it is like a microcosm of the industry. You have to work your way up – as you should do. I would have always thought ‘what if’ if I didn’t [pursue a career in acting], so I then went on to Italia Conti drama school to train. It was more difficult than uni, you really have to be present all the time. For me, there was a lot I needed to do to get rid of the expectations of what I’d previously thought acting was.

What has been the biggest challenge for you in your career?
The biggest challenge is still believing you are an artist even if you are not working. I got very down about it in the past. It is important not to put all your self-worth into your job, there is more than that.

What’s next for you?
I wouldn’t say no to more musicals. I didn’t see my career going that way, but as long as I am learning things, then that’s all that matters. I’d like to do more TV and film, it’s such a technical skill that I want to master.

CV: Lucie Shorthouse

Training: Italia Conti, acting (2012-15)
First professional role: Workshop for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2015)
Agent: James Foster

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie [1] is running at the Apollo Theatre in London until October 6.