Known for their roles in Hollyoaks and Waterloo Road, Jessica Forrest and Ben Ryan-Davies discuss their experience with the stage; the script that enticed them, and their favourite chippy tea.
Box of Tricks starts off its 10th anniversary year with the premiere of Becky Prestwich’s funny and nostalgic new tale of love over fish and chips and some Northern soul. Chip Shop Chips is showing at The Hub, Taylorson St, Salford, on the 17th/18th February from 7pm.
It’s the grand reopening of Booth’s Fish & Chip Shop. Eric has returned home, over forty years after he left, and it’s time for a fresh start but old flame Christine has other ideas. There’s unfinished business for these old lovers, from all the way back to a time of chippy teas and Northern Soul, and is it all just history repeating as stumbling teenage love appears in the form of hapless Lee making a pass at the beautiful Jasmine?
Without giving too much away – could you tell us a little bit about your character and your role within the play?
Jessica – The play runs over the course of one evening and throughout the evening we see two relationships develop, one of these relationships is of Jasmine and Lee and I play Jasmine.
Jasmine’s 18 and she’s your typical cynical stroppy teenager who always thinks that she knows best.
It’s not just your normal night in a chips shop. It’s a reopening – there’s a show and a quiz which means it’s not your typical theatrical performance because the audience are very much immersed in the action.
Throughout the night you see the relationship between Lee and Jasmine develop and because they have a bit of history we see Jasmine’s character evolve from cynical stroppy teenager to someone who’s a lot warmer and a lot more than she’s initially portrayed.
Ben – You get to see a romance that has been, and romance to come – it’s a bit will they won’t they? It’s a very sweet story, it’s immersive – everyone gets fed, there’s music and it’s going to be a really good night, and I’m really looking forward to it.
The show tours urban and rural non – theatre venues, how does this affect your rehearsal process and overall experience?
J – It’s exciting. On the first day we did things you probably wouldn’t normally do and that was all hands on deck, looking at the set, looking at how it dismantles and comes apart so we can adapt it to the different spaces.
Today is the first day we’ve got the performance on its feet and so we’re looking at that now and it’s really interesting how that’s going to change because we are going to be in such different spaces.
It’s almost in the round because the audience will be seated around the action. It’s unusual but it makes it a little bit more exciting and it brings it back to the immersive element where the audience will be involved in the quiz. It’s non-traditional and exciting and I’m hoping that will entice people to come to watch us.
B – You have to rehearse for each specific venue and each performance which can be testing because it’s not going to be the same layout every night. It is really interesting and it will keep me on my toes for sure!
It’ll be brilliant for the audience because we’re not doing it night after night exactly the same, every night is going to be different – that happens in theatre anyway but in our position it happens even more so!
How does working on stage compare to working on television?
J – Firstly we get rehearsal time which is a lot different from my experience in Hollyoaks where we usually have a read through and then before you know it, the next time you’re with the actors on set, but with this we have rehearsal time. We get to talk things through. We study each line. At the moment it’s great because you can really get into it and get to know the character for a good couple of weeks before showing anybody. It does definitely differ but in a good way.
B – I love doing theatre, it’s great and I haven’t had the opportunity to do much of it. I live in London now so coming back up North has been exciting for me and to do a northern play too. It’s all been really good.
What was it that appealed to you about this production?
J – This particular production, it was interesting because when the email landed in my inbox I read it straight away ‘Chip Shop Chips’ an immersive piece of theatre set in a chip shop in Lancashire and I thought ‘Wow’, I’m a girl from Lancashire, if I don’t get this then I don’t know what I’m going to do! As I started reading it I found it really funny, really, really funny, it was making me laugh out loud.
The playwright Becky Prestwich is amazing, she really captures the moment in a really comedic way and it’s so heartfelt. It has a lot of depth to it – I think it appeals to a really wide audience and everyone will be able to relate to both of the relationships featured.
B – Becky’s script was really good and when I read it I knew I really wanted to be involved. I’m a fan of immersive theatre; I think it’s a really good theatre medium. So after reading the script, the concept and my character who is really interesting I just wanted to be a part of it.
After experience on television – how do you feel about the concept of an actual audience and does the idea make you nervous?
J – I think I will be before curtain call. I’ll be like ‘Oh god here we go’ but we’re going to be well rehearsed and it’s exciting. There will be that energy to bounce off and I love the idea of that challenge – I’ve got someone sat in front of me and I’ve got to make them laugh – you can ham it up. It’s theatre, it’s just really exciting.
I’m not nervous, not right now; maybe ask me that five minutes before I go on!
B – With theatre you get that instant gratification and you have to play to the audience that’s sitting in front you. You only really know if it’s working or not when that audience is in there and you have to really play it off the audience’s reaction – it’s a good test as an actor.
What will the audience take away from the production apart from a chippy tea?
J – My Grandma and Grandad are coming to watch it and I think they’ll really enjoy it because the storyline with Eric and Christine (my Nan), is quite touching. They’re 60 odd. They have seen it all, they look at Jasmine and Lee and they know they’ve been in that position – old people who think they know better, giving us advice. There’s just certain lines in it that are really touching – I just think people will go away thinking that was really well put together. There’s just so much to relate to and it’s feel good because it’s such a lovely piece.
There will be times when people might have a little tear in their eye – well hopefully they will, because I did when I first read it!
B – A full belly to start off with! There’s so much to the performance. They’ll come away after having a really good night, a bit of food, some Northern Soul, and a lot of entertainment.
They will definitely come away with a smile on their face.
What’s your favourite chippy tea?
J – I like fish, chips, peas and gravy – and loads of salt and vinegar.
B – Chips and gravy with a steak and kidney pudding and a bit of mushy peas. You don’t get steak and kidney pudding down south – I love coming back up north which means I get to have one again! Loads of vinegar on my mushy peas as well – you’ve got to have vinegar on your mushy peas.