A bright star rises up from Hackney’s outer limits

Supplied pic © The Shed

IMDB is known for its no-nonsense descriptions of movies, TV shows and actors, but above all accuracy. Yet it slipped up with Michaela Coel.

“He is an actor,” said the huge entertainment website the last time Loving Dalston looked.

Even the gender clue in the christian name was missed by the writer of the item.

They won’t be slipping up about this young Hackney actor-playwright-singer for much longer. She has just had stunning reviews for her award-winning one-person play, Chewing Gum Dreams, which was picked up by The Shed at the National Theatre after it was put on by The Yard in Hackney Wick.

She is acting in another play, Home, at The Shed and this summer 2014 she flies to America for a writing workshop, heralded as a “rising-star playwright”. A respected publisher wants to publish Chewing Gum Dreams.

Not bad for an East Ender from a poor background. Coel, full name Michaela-Moses Boakye-Collinson, is still  in her mid-20s. She has not sat around, waiting to be discovered. “You just have to get up and do it yourself,” she told an interviewer. “You have to.”

After graduation from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2012 she got on with that working up a solo piece she’d written at the school. That became Chewing Gum Dreams about Tracey, said one critic, a devil-may-care 14-year-old growing up in inner-city London and “forever having her aspirations punctured”.

Tracey’s chief preoccupations are dishing out “gleefully harsh putdowns” to other girls on the bus.

But how to get her play staged? She phoned Jay Miller, founder-director of The Yard, and she did not stop until he agreed to put the play on.

Then, “just working hard and trying to put stuff out there”, she designed and built the set, produced the play, designed handbills and handed them out in the street.

Remember that as well as being the writer, she was acting all the parts. The play was on at The Yard for four nights and all nights were sold out.

Somehow she has also found the energy to act also in Top Boy and other TV dramas.

David Altheer 130714 

* Extra dates have had to be arranged for Home, starring Coel, at the National Theatre (020 7452 3244)  on until Wed 30 April 2014. Demand for tickets has been huge. Picture of Coel from The Shed.

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

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