Sha Dessi graduated from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in 2021 and is currently making her professional theatre debut as Éponine in Les Misérables.
Q: From an aspiring actress at a young age, what were your dreams?
Sha: Simply to choose a career that I could see myself being excited about for a long time.
There is so much variety in terms of projects in the entertainment industry. I just wanted to contribute to theatre in whatever way I could, it is the thing that moves me most. It just so happens to have manifested itself into acting and singing.
Q: Did you have any performers that inspired you?
Sha: Countless, but particularly Cynthia Erivo. I was hesitant to pursue anything to do with the entertainment industry for a long time, but after getting the chance to watch her in The Colour Purple on Broadway, I decided I had to at least try. That production is the best-told story I’ve ever seen on a stage.
Q: You graduated in 2021 from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. What were some of your favourite memories from there?
Sha: Without a doubt, getting a chance to watch my classmates perform in our 3rd-year shows. We all had a difficult time navigating COVID, the limitation of social distancing during shows and having to sing facing away from a castmate was challenging.
Ultimately though, we all became so much closer. It was so hard to keep morale high, however there was so much love being passed around. I distinctly remember having to watch our classmates shows via livestream in a separate studio (because we weren’t allowed audiences in the theatre) and at the end all running outside to scream at each other in excitement from a distance.
Watching the other half of our class create incredible work in spite of all the limitations was very emotional. Lots of crying from pride on my part.
Q: How did the pandemic affect the conclusion of your training and then into the post-graduation period?
Sha: I’ve touched a bit on this with the above question but the use of social distancing during performance and audience capacity of 12 or less, once again for safety purposes.
In terms of post-graduation, more than anything a worry of there not being much theatre on anymore. The west end hadn’t opened back up yet, so it felt like the limited opportunities that existed to begin with were now cut in half.
Q: You are currently starring as Éponine in Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre in London’s West End. Can you tell us about this ‘journey’?
Sha: We are very lucky to have had an audition workshop session with the Cameron Macintosh casting team at Mountview. We got a chance to sing 2 cut songs and receive feedback. That’s the first time the team met me and when Les Mis was recasting I had luckily signed with my agents and got an audition through from them.
I was then sent material to tape, then a few auditions in person, lots of waiting and then a wonderful call from my agents where I cried at them for a few minutes.
Rehearsals started a month after and it’s all a blur now, with just under 2 months left of the year’s contract left.
Q: What are your ambitions for the future?
Sha: I would like to do something a little different, whether it be a change in platform, genre, contract length etc.
Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit.
Sondheim Theatre, London