Last year, Tilly La Belle made her West End debut in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre as Fatimah and second cover Pritti, and was still in the cast before theatres closed until further notice due to the pandemic, and while in the show, she performed at the Royal Albert Hall for One Young World 10th Annual Summit. Tilly has also appeared in Hairspray in Southsea as ensemble and a Dynamite, and she has worked on London Fashion Week for Burberry. We caught up with Tilly about making her West End debut as Fatimah in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, performing at the Royal Albert Hall and working with Burberry at London Fashion Week.
What do you enjoy most about playing Fatimah in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre?
The fun. Fatimah is just a fun character. She’s loud and sassy. It’s like playing an extremely heightened version of myself. She is just so fun and it was just such an ease playing her – I just got to be a kid.
What did you know about Fatimah before auditioning?
I knew nothing. I had watched the show twice before, first time watching my friend Rachel Seirian make her West End debut and the second with my college to go and support. The second time, she played Fatimah, and it was just such a fun role. She definitely gets some of the laughs!
How was it rehearsing for the role and seeing the script for the first time?
Rehearsals were so much fun just like the show. Seeing the script really made it real. It was a lot in the same breath because it was my first big job, I was young so the immense pressure that comes from that can be difficult. The choreography and linking the show together was the hardest part, not in terms of content, but just of how much of it there was and when you are still learning it can be quite hard because you feel like you don’t know what you are doing. However, my residents at the time were so amazing and helpful which made the process just so easy and, like anything, the more we did it, the more it started to settle.
You are making your West End debut in the show, how were you feeling on your opening night?
I couldn’t believe it. I cried A LOT! I just didn’t expect it. I didn’t think something would come to me so soon nor did I even know it was something that I wanted but when it came I felt like this is exactly where I’m meant to be doing what I’m doing. It was such an incredible feeling and being with such a supportive cast and team made it that more special because they were so welcoming and proud.
As second cover Pritti, what is she like to prepare to play?
Everything was very new. So, although it was work, I also got schooled in acting and there was so much I learnt. Pritti was hard, she is a very delicate character and has many different layers. I had never taken on a role that big so there were so many things that I had to uncover about her. Most importantly, I had to figure out what was my version of Pritti going to be and how does Tilly play Pritti.
What’s the production like to be part of?
It was the best. You really do become like a little family, you spend six days a week with the same people doing the same thing. You find a way to keep each other running when you are tired or new ways together to keep the show fun. I think also that everyone cared about each other made it really special.
How was the experience at the Royal Albert Hall performing for the One Young World 10th Annual Summit with the rest of the Jamie cast?
It was surreal. it lasted all of probably about eight minutes but it was just so crazy. To say that it is somewhere that I have performed doesn’t even make sense but I did it and I did it with the most amazing cast too.
Can you tell us about being in the ensemble and playing a Dynamite in Hairspray at Gaiety Theatre in Southsea?
It was really great. The job had kindly been given to me by Philip Joel, a teacher at my college. So it was amazing to know that he thought of me for the role. Again, it was so much fun. I was working with someone I already knew and some others from my college. Playing a Dynamite was super cool because the songs are just so soulful and feel good.
What was it like being part of the cast?
It was great. We didn’t have a lot of time together, everything was put on in such a short amount of time but we really pulled together to make it work. I made some great memories with them all.
What inspired you to get into acting and how did you start?
Acting wasn’t something I found much later until I came into college. It was something that I didn’t really give much thought to before but now I realise that it is the very thing that binds the arts together. Pritti really showed me that all of these characters have layers and layers that you can peel off, whilst rehearsing for her I found and learned skills that I will use for life. Even now more so I realise how important it is and I hope that one day I’ll be able to do a series or a movie where I get to portray and delve deep into a character’s life.
You trained at Italia Conti and have just finished your final year, how was this?
I wasn’t really there because of the show. It is weird to think that I am now a graduate. It feels weird but I’m ready for the next chapter of life. It is just such a shame that I didn’t get to wrap it up the way I wanted to and graduate properly with my year and give it the closure it deserved. I spent five years of my life there. However, I’m finally out in the industry and I already have accomplished something so big. It has just shown me that I am more than capable of really doing this.
Do you have a favourite part of performing in musical theatre and what do you enjoy doing other than your career?
Performing is such a great feeling, even better that it’s an act of service to others. So, not only are you making yourself happy because it is something that you enjoy doing, but the people watching are enjoying themselves too. I would say that’s my favourite part, the enjoyment and reactions of others. Other than performing, I love fashion and clothing. I think style is so important and makes up so much of our identity.
With a lot of musical theatre shows streaming during lockdown, have you had chance to watch any and which shows would you like to see live in the future?
I haven’t actually been able to see any shows that have streamed. In the future, I definitely want to see Hamilton. I know, I still can’t believe haven’t seen it yet, I watched it on Disney+ but I would 100% like to watch it live. I really missed out going to watch shows as a kid so now that I am older I want to watch anything and everything!
We understand you’ve been involved with London Fashion Week, can you tell us more about this?
This was so cool to do. It was for Burberry and they basically had a climbing frame in the Tate around the space. You could climb on the inside and outside of the frame and it just created moving scenery whilst the show was going on. The concept was really great and the show was incredible too. I live for runway so it was crazy to see famous models that I see in Vogue walking down the runway in real life.
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