The Birmingham Rep celebrate their 100th birthday on February 16 with a celebratory performance of Phillip Pullman's 'I Was A Rat!'. I talk to Fox Jackson-Keen below.
How did you first get into acting?
One of the things that my mum and dad got me to try was gymnastics. I became the best gymnast in London at age 9, 10 and 11. More importantly, doing well in that gave me a massive confidence boost, enough to then try street dance. That led to some adverts, which I really enjoyed, and that then led to my wanting to attend stage school. But I wasn’t there very long before the chance to audition for Billy Elliot came up. It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I pestered my dad to let me go.
What is the most exciting thing about your job?
Wow, that's a difficult one, not to think of things but to narrow it down to one thing. I love the amazing people I work with and learn from, I love being on stage and I love creating characters and brining them to life.
What was the best thing about playing Billy Elliot?
I was lucky enough to play Billy for 2 ½ years and over 200 performances. I went in as a 12 year old and came out almost 15. It was the most amazing experience and I learned so, so much. The daily acting classes, the dance and, most importantly for me, the performing. There's just no feeling quite like getting a standing ovation from 1200 people. As I said, my debut was as a 12 year old and you get through it with energy and enthusiasm. The thing is, as you get to understand Billy’s journey you realise, in fact all the Billy’s realise, it’s really our journey and it becomes very personal and very powerful. It’s a brilliant role and I am very honoured to have had the chance to share it with the audience. In terms of the funniest moment, it was probably performing with my best friend Tom Holland (he’s currently in The Impossible with Ewan Macgregor) in Billy. The guy that played Michael was sick and Tom stood in, we had such fun all the way through.
What would be your dream role on stage?
I love theatre - there's something about a big audience watching you, and my acting is really about finding the truth of the character and even if they are in strange situations, like Roger in I Was A Rat!, it is still about portraying their truth. So I've always dreamt of one of those great Shakespearian roles, Iago, Prospero, .......King Lear, that one might have to wait a while?
What are you most looking forward to about starring in 'I Was A Rat!'
We are in rehearsals now and we had a week long workshop in London to work out the foundations and direction or the show. This was led by Teresa Ludovico, the director, who was fantastic and her vision for the play is really exciting. I can’t wait to see the audience's reaction.
I Was A Rat! plays at Birmingham's Old Rep from February 16 through March 2.