Newham actor to star in National Theatre show about Windrush generation

PUBLISHED: 14:00 24 March 2019

Leah Harvey will be starring in Small Island. Picture: Wolf Marloh

Leah Harvey will be starring in Small Island. Picture: Wolf Marloh

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A Newham actor is set to bring the story of Windrush immigrants to life in a new play.

Leah Harvey, who grew up in Upton Park, will take on the role of Hortense in Small Island, an adaptation of Andrea Levy’s 1940s-set novel.

The 24-year-old described her character in the National Theatre show as “very guarded, proud and extremely funny”.

And the former Brampton Manor pupil is no stranger to starring in adaptations, having taken on the role of Tina in the BBC adaptation of Jacqueline Wilson book Dustbin Baby when she was 14.

She said: “We filmed for a week and it was the best week of my life. I knew from that point that I wanted to be an actor.”

Leah told how her first taste of the stage was acting was in a Year 2 nativity play where she earned the role of the bright star after singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star from one end of the hall to the other in front of her teachers.

The performance made her grandmother cry which then pretty much set her on the acting path.

“I really love living in Newham and seeing how much it’s changed,” she said.

“The community is really strong, and Stratford Theatre is really doing well.

“I’m happy to see it’s still a creative and bustling borough because for a little bit I thought that would fade away.

“The sense of community and sense of support from the odd person is still there from when I was a kid. I’m really happy it’s still a lovely place to live.”

She offered advice to anyone hoping to follow in her footsteps, saying:: “Keep going and it’s possible.

“So many people in Newham have achieved a lot and we’re worth more than some in society tell us.”

Previews of Small Island at the National Theatre begin on April 17, and the show runs until August 10. There are talks and other themed events after some performances.

For tickets, which cost £15-£50, visit

The play will also be screened in cinemas, including Stratford Vue and Stratford Picturehouse, as part of National Theatre Live on Thursday, June 27.

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