Making his debut on the West End, Fox Jackson-Keen takes on another leading role in I Was A Rat, a stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novel, which comes to the Nottingham Playhouse this March. Touring the country, Fox took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to Impact about his love for performing and his involvement in the project.
How did you originally get into acting?
One of the things that my 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 and I had a go at street dance that led to some adverts, which I really enjoyed, which led to a desire to attend stage school. I wasn’t there very long and had already been bitten by the performing bug, when the chance to audition for Billy Elliot came up, I pestered my dad to let me go, which he did and then I was acting.
You originally began to follow in your father’s footsteps and compete as a gymnast – is that something that you could see yourself ever coming back to?
No, not really, if I’d have kept up my training and not stopped to act, I may have been in good place gymnastically, but I’ve moved on. I like to train with the lads to keep fit, but not to compete, they’d slaughter me!
What was it like playing the much-loved role of Billy Elliot?
Totally amazing. I was lucky to play Billy for 2 ½ years in over 200 performances. I went in as a 12 year old and came out age 14 ½. It was the most amazing experience and I learnt so much. The daily acting classes, the dance and most importantly for me the performing. I loved and love performing. Having 1200 people stand up to give you an ovation, there is nothing like it. As I said, my debut was as a 12 year old and you get through it with energy and enthusiasm; 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.
Tell us a bit about the play I Was a Rat!
It’s a fairy story, a fairy story with a great heart. Like all good fairy tales, there are some fun bits, some dark bits but we all end up in a very happy place. My character Roger can’t understand why things are happening to him; he says he used to be a rat!
Was Philip Pullman the kind of writer you read as a child?
Yes I did, well actually listened to more than I read – The Subtle Knife, Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North, and of course I Was A Rat which was always one of my favourites. It was a great honour to meet Mr Pullman. He came to the first night and said he was delighted with the show.
Is your dancing incorporated in this production of?
It is. It’s a very physical part with lots of jumping around, but there is a great dance that I do for Mr Tappscrew which is really is good fun.
What has been the best thing about being involved in I Was a Rat?
Wow that is a hard one! There are so many great things. Teresa Ludovico’s vision for the production, the amazing multi-talented cast and the fun we all have.
Do you think that the production appeals to children and adults alike?
Yes absolutely, as I said, it’s a fairy story, the type we have all grown up with and are familiar with It’s also one of those multi-layered things. There are a few little bits more for the kids and a few things more for the adults, but it is a story for everyone. Everyone leaves the theatre smiling.
Were there any difficulties which you saw in adapting a book of this sort to the stage?
Not really, from my perspective. We had a week long workshop, led by the director Teresa Ludovico, in London to work out the foundations and direction of the show from which we quickly got to a place where we knew where we were going.
I was a Rat comes to the Nottingham Playhouse from Tuesday 26th March – Saturday 13th April 2013. For ticket information go to: