An Interview with Lucie Shorthouse

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The actress just won a WOS stage award for her role in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Pritti Pasha, the studious best friend of flamboyant wannabe drag queen Jamie, has captured audiences' hearts and become the unexpected favourite character everyone is rooting for. London Calling talked to Lucie Shorthouse, the actress who took Pritti from workshop to West End, about this incredible chance and spreading the show's message of positivity and tolerance.

London Calling: Congratulations on your WhatsOnStage award as best Supporting Actress in a Musical! The WOS award is an audience choice award. What does that mean to you?

Lucie Shorthouse: The audience got behind the character, more than anything. It’s not so much about my performance, but I see it as a real victory for Pritti. People like Pritti are not subcultures but they are represented as such on stage still so it’s really important that we show visibility and diversity. You don’t do theatre for awards but it is really important to entertain the public, that’s who we make shows for and they enjoy the show, so that’s really lovely.

LC: Can you tell us a little bit about who Pritti is?

LS: She is Jamie’s best friend and she’s a girl that happens to be Muslim. She has aspirations to be a doctor and in the school that she’s in, it’s not cool to be clever so she is a bit of an outcast. That’s how her and Jamie bond, they are both misfits in their own right and they unify over that truth. As Jamie’s best friend, she invigorates and encourages him and she also holds him accountable when he goes a bit too far. I think she’s the best friend we all hope to have one day.

LC: Is Pritti a real life character or was she created for the show?

LS: She is actually fictional. The real Jamie Campbell obviously had friends but she is a creation of Tom MacRae, the writer.

John McCrea (Jamie New) and Lucie Shorthouse (Pritti Pasha) in rehearsal. Photo: Grace Wordsworth

LC: Pritti is an outsider not because she is Muslim or because she is wearing a hijab but because she is smart and ambitious.

LS: I think it’s important how we handled her as a Muslim character. It’s not a massive statement. That’s not the reason she’s an outcast. There is another girl in the school wearing a hijab and she happens to move in another social circle. The opening scene in that classroom reflects Britain today: it’s multicultural, there’s different faiths. Her faith just happens to be part of her, it doesn’t define her.

LC: What do you have in common with Pritti?

LS: I was very much like her at school. I was quite academic and clever and it was never cool. I was quite shy and reserved, but I enjoyed drama and that’s where I kind of found my voice and my confidence, similar to Pritti. Even my dad, he watched the show and said: it’s just you! But I wish I was as wise as her, she comes out with some golden nuggets of information and wisdom, and I just wish I was like that.

LC: We never see her parents in the show but they still play a part. What do you think they are like? They are apparently strict but she seems to be supported and loved, she doesn’t feel the need to rebel.

LS: Just like in my family, there are certain things you keep away from Dad, it’s just easier. But I think they are quite tolerant and accepting. She’s got a best friend like Jamie! Yes, she snuck him into her bedroom but of course he’s allowed around the house and he has dinner there and he probably just invites himself in. I think it’s important that we show these two characters have been best friends for a very long time and that the audience sees their bond despite their differences.

LC: You have a very beautiful song in the second act that very much takes the character from classic sidekick to fully formed person of her own.

LS: With that song, she kind of plants a seed in Jamie. He doesn’t quite believe that he’s beautiful in that moment and that word ugly was just ingrained in him from such a young age. So she plants that seed in him and later he starts to take on that advice so it’s a nice responsibility to carry within the show. I’m not a very confident singer, so for me, it’s really about acting through that song with intention. You are beautiful, you don’t believe it yet, but you will, I promise.

Photo: Jack Alexander

LC: But she is also talking about herself in that moment.

LS: Yes! She is considering if maybe that could be a part of her, too. Maybe I will allow myself to have a bit of fun, put a bit of lippy on and I am still myself. I’m still Pritti but it’s ok to explore what might be beautiful to me. It’s an awakening for her as much as for Jamie.

LC: And that speech you give before the prom must be just so satisfying?

LS: I think everyone wishes they could have that moment. If you’ve had a bully or just someone who forced you to retreat inside yourself or intimidated you, to come out with a really articulate speech of everything you’ve always wanted to say to them, it’s a great moment. And I feel like this has been stored in her since year 7, this same guy on her again and again and she is not taking it anymore. When the audience really get behind that moment and applaud her, it’s lovely. Again, it’s not me, the actress; they love Pritti. There’s plenty of Pritti’s out there. And for the audience to take her side and not tolerate this kind of animosity and bullying, it’s such a good feeling.

The cast of Everybody's Talking About Jamie. Photo: Alastair Muir

LC: The show really speaks to young people.

LS: We’ve had fantastic responses from young people. I’ve been quite involved with the education and outreach program. I have been organising to get even more schools in, because I think it could be a really pivotal piece for someone to watch at a formative age in their life: It’s ok to be who I am. Or if it’s not about them and who they are, then to enlighten themselves to be more tolerant of other people. We live in a devisive time, I think it’s really important that people watch this piece and celebrate people’s differences, they don’t have to divide us, they can bring us together and unify us and strengthen us. That’s an important message for young people and they have been incredible on social media. I’ve had some really beautiful messages from people who were in a bad place but, seeing the show, they feel like it’s going to be okay, because if people get behind this character then maybe they can get behind me, too.

LC: This was your first professional gig?

LC: Yes, I been working professionally for two years now, but the workshop for Jamie was my first ever job and now it’s my first ever West End role. Just because you do the workshop doesn’t guarantee you will be in the show. I thought they would get someone proper to do it! But it’s been great to be part of this journey and to actually originate the role. It’s something I was very passionate about. I’m so privileged and proud to play this character.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is playing at the Apollo Theatre and is currently taking bookings until October 2018