Sunday, 17 August 2014

Karla Crome - Mush and Me

When over-anxious actresses get talking, great things can come from it.
Take what happened when former star of E4's cult hit, Misfits, Karla
Crome, met up with her friend Daniella Isaacs.

“We were both feeling depressed about our careers,” Crome says,
“because I'm a big worrier, and always think I'm never going to work
again. Daniella was feeling the same way, and after we'd been to the
theatre, we had a cup of tea, and she said she had this story about her
101 year old Great Aunt Nancy.”

Nancy Yetzes grew up Jewish in the East End of London. When she was in
her twenties, she fell in love with a non-Jewish man who proposed to
her. Yetzes turned him down, worried about what her family and the
local community might think. She has remained single ever since.
Crome's friend interviewed her Great Aunt Nancy about the experience,
which ended up inspiring Mush and Me.

“Daniella's from the orthodox Jewish faith as well,” Crome points out,
“and we wondered if there was any value in trying to find a modern
equivalent of what her Great Aunt went through.”

The result of such speculation is the Edinburgh premiere of Mush and
Me, Crome's Ideas Tap-winning play in which Isaac plays a young Jewish
woman who falls for a Shi-ite Muslim man.

“It's basically a love story,” says Crome, “and they embark on
something of a secret relationship because of their different faiths,
although in the end its their difference in faiths that unite them.”

It's 5am North Carolina time when Crome relates all this, already wide
awake and up for talking before she goes off to work. The twenty-five
year old actress is on location filming the latest episodes of Under
The Dome, a small-screen adaptation of Stephen King's novel about what
happens to the residents of a small American town after a giant dome
cuts them off from the rest of the world. Crome plays a science teacher
studying the dome.

After playing Jess, the girl with X-ray eyes who could see through
everyone in the last two series of Misfits, another role in a fantasy
show was perhaps inevitable. Not that Crome is complaining. Misfits was
an inspired potty-mouthed cross between Heroes and Skins that followed
the adventures of a group of youths on community service gifted with
special powers following a freak storm.

“The scripts were hilarious,” Crome says. “I laughed every day, and I
met some of my best friends on the show.”

Crome had already begun writing by the time she joined the show.

“I'd been farting about with it for years,” Crome says, “and then the
National Youth Theatre offered ten to twelve places to do a year-long
playwriting mentorship. You had to submit a play, and I was accepted,
and did that for a year. The intere3sting thing about that, is that
David Mumemi, who plays Mush, was also on the course, and we wrote

Out of this alliance came Our Days of Rage, a reaction to the Arab
Spring, which was performed by the NYT at the Old Vic Tunnels, with
Isaacs playing the lead role. Our Days of Rage led to the NYT
commissioning Crome to write If Chloe Can, a piece about young women's
career options which has subsequently toured universities.

“I'd like to try again,” she says of the experience of writing If Chloe
Can while away filming. “It's a very stressful process, doing rewrites
over Skype after you've started work at six and not finishing till
eight, nine or ten. You've got to be passionate about the project to
make it work,” she says, “but acting is the priority for me."

It has been since she was four, Crome says, when she would beg her
mother to take her out of secondary school and let her audition for the
Sylvia Young or Italia Conti theatre schools. Crome eventually went to
Italia Conti aged eighteen, and not long after graduating appeared at
the Royal Exchange, Manchester. On television, Crome acted opposite
Chloe Sevigny in Shameless writer Paul Abbot's six part thriller, Hit &

Next came Murder, the BAFTA-winning TV drama that was the first
English-language piece by director  of The Killing, Birger Larsen.
Crome played the lead in a straight to camera dissection of the killing
of her character Coleen's sister and the trial that follows.

“It's the work that I'm proudest of and is most important to me,” Crome
says. “Coleen was angry, vulnerable, complex and everything you can get
your teeth into as an actor. For a twenty-three year old mixed race
woman without much experience, I've not had that many approaches to
carry the emotional weight of something in that way since.”

For all her anxieties about not working, Crome's head is full of people
she'd like to play.

“I want to play a police-woman,” she says, “I want to play a
crack-head, I want a role where I have to get really fat.”

Crome's dream role, however, is Amanda Wingfield, the disappointed
matriarch in Tennessee Williams' play, The Glass Menagerie. While she
might have a few years to wait for that one yet, it pays to plan early.
“I read somewhere that people who make lists are more likely to achieve
their ambitions,” she says. “At Christmas a couple of years ago I wrote
down that I wanted to write a play and that I wanted to work in
America, and now here I am.”

Mush and Me, Underbelly, July 31-Aug 24, 2.50-3.50pm

The Herald, August 12th


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