WHEN Carla Langley was at primary school one of her teachers suggested that to try and overcome Carla’s shyness she should take part in a school play.
Although Carla was a little reluctant at first it seemed to do the trick - so much so that it also led to her forging a career as an actress.
And she has become a successful one at that with roles in a multitude of plays since she graduated from the Italia Conti drama school in Clapham four years ago.
She is currently appearing in a new play, Orca, by rising star, Matt Grinter and which is being staged at the Southwark Playhouse.
It is she tells me, a story that is intense, atmospheric and at times a bit creepy but one which audiences have been very positive about.
Set on a remote fishing island it tells the story of Fan, a young girl who is eager to be chosen as “the daughter” and go out with the boats to bless the waters. It is a ritual that has been performed by the islanders for more years than they remember and is led by The Father - the leader of the community.
However Fan’s sister Maggie harbours a terrible secret and begs her not to go. But Fan is headstrong and determined and with a community fearful of The Father, trying to persuade Fan is not going to be easy. It is only when another girl is found in the water by fishermen that the terrible truth begins to emerge. But is it too late to help Fan?
“It’s beautifully written by Matt who I think has huge talent and is one to watch,” says Carla warmly.
“The story centres on how the community brushes its secrets under the carpet, how the islanders are all fearful of speaking out against the man who is their leader, The Father, and if they do what the consequences might be.
“Through the course of the story and as the truth gradually comes out you can see their lives unravel - it’s intense and gripping and there are times when even I think it’s a bit scary!
“But you get to see what can go on in a community when one man has so much power that people won’t speak out when something bad happens.
“It’s haunting, atmospheric, uncomfortable at times but very powerful - it’s a great piece and I’m loving being part of it.”
Carla plays Fan, the 14-year-old girl who is desperate to be chosen to go out with the boats. And it’s clear from our chat that she is relishing the opportunity to play a teenager, and one who has a full and vivid imagination.
“Fan is a great character to play,” she says. “She is very childlike, naive and fun to begin with but as the play progresses she begins to realise that something ominous is about to happen - although she doesn’t want to believe what Maggie is telling her.
“It’s a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me as you have to bring so much more to the part as it goes on. But it’s a real treat to play her - and especially as I’m with four other incredible actors who are just brilliant.”
As it’s a new play, Carla is not able to make comparisons with other actresses who have taken on and approached the role before, but she says she prefers it that way.
Indeed since leaving drama school she has tended to go for parts in new plays which she says is more interesting.
“Every single play I have ever done bar one is a new piece of writing,” she says cheerfully. “I love it because it’s fresh and exhilarating, has never been done before, and to be the first person to tackle that particular role is really exciting.
“It’s challenging of course but you get free rein with the character in that you don’t have to compare yourself to anyone else’s take on it.
“I also think it’s really important to support new writers and I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to do so. Matt is really special and will definitely go places.
“When I read Orca I knew I wanted to be in it - I’ve never done anything like this before, it feels other worldly but there are parallels with what’s going on in communities here now so it’s really interesting.”
However, she does admit to having a hankering to perform in one particular classic - a production of Arthur Miller’s After The Fall.
“I love that play,” she laughs. “I did it at drama school and did a lot of research on him and Marilyn Monroe who one of the characters is based on. I got really intrigued by it all - to play that part would be a dream.
“Unfortunately it’s not one of his that’s done very often so I might have to wait - but I’d definitely love to do it!”
Orca is on at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway until November 26. Tickets cost £20. Visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk or call the box office on 020 7407 0234.