Actress Jessica Forrest chats to Frankly My Dear UK about new play CHIP SHOP CHIPS
Three years after her explosive exit as Lianne Holliday in HOLLYOAKS, Jessica Forrest is set to make her stage debut with CHIP SHOP CHIPS, a funny and nostalgic new tale of love set over fish and chips.
The 25-year old actress from Pendle, has appeared in a number of TV shows over the past few years including HOLLYOAKS (2010-2013), ITV’s CORONATION STREET (2014), Sky Arts’ THE CRUISE (2014) and BBC’s DANI’S CASTLE SERIES III (2014) but is now looking forward to making the move from screen to stage with CHIP SHOP CHIPS, a new play commissioned by Box of Tricks and written by Becky Prestwich.
Focusing on love at different ages, CHIP SHOP CHIPS tells a story of first love, nostalgia and the nation’s favourite food and is set during the grand reopening of Booth’s Fish & Chip Shop. Jessica plays Jasmine, a bright, beautiful and bored 18 year old who visits the chippy with her Nan, Christine and stars alongside Rochdale actor Ben-Ryan Davies, best known for playing Ronan Burlesy in WATERLOO ROAD, as well as Russell Richardson (A WINTER’S TALE) and Julie Edwards (BRIEF ENCOUNTERS).
Frankly My Dear UK caught up with Jessica ahead of the play’s premiere at The Hub in Salford (in association with The Lowry) on 17 February to find out how she’s feeling about making the jump from screen to stage.
“I’m super excited” comments Jessica. “Box of Tricks are a really good company so I’m really excited to work for them.”
“When I read CHIP SHOP CHIPS it just brought me back to home. It was just so heart-warming. It made me fill up with tears and laugh out loud at the same time. It’s just a really well written piece, its lovely.”
“I play a character called Jasmine” explains Jessica. “She’s a typical teenager, she’s quite fashionable, she’s intelligent and she speaks her own mind but she’s very aware of how others think about her. Jasmine and her Nan come into the chippy for the evening and they are served by Eric and Lee. There’s two love stories in the play that juxtapose one another and its sort of a generational story because it’s about Nan and Eric who are 60+ and then Lee and Jasmine who are 18. It’s really beautifully written and because of the age difference, I think it will relate to lots of different people.”
Performing on stage is a world away from the world of television, where Jessica developed her acting career. The former Burnley Youth Theatre member was studying Drama and Screen Studies at the University of Manchester when she was selected from thousands of hopefuls to play Leanne Holiday on Channel 4’s hit soap HOLLYOAKS.
“I went to an opening casting at the BBC and it was literally a day that changed my life” explains Jessica. “I signed a 12 month contract for Channel 4 and I was like “Woah, what is going on?” as I was just thrown on set.”
But despite being out of her comfort zone, the actress is enjoying the working in the theatre, particularly the preparation and rehearsal process, something she never got to do when working in TV.
“When I’ve acted for television, we don’t get rehearsals. You get your script but you actually don’t sit down and discuss your characters and storylines in depth. The turnover for HOLLYOAKS and CORONATION STREET is so, so quick. I’ll get a script and within 3 days I’m filming it and before you know, it’s out on screen.”
“I’m just enjoying the rehearsal process and to be able to spend some time to really get to know the characters. It’s really good training for me because I went to Manchester University and did Drama and Screen Studies for 2 years and I thought the course would be quite practical but it wasn’t, it was very heavily theory based. Having some really decent training behind-the-scenes that no-one ever sees is a complete privilege. It’s really nice.”
Jessica admits it’s taking her a bit of time to get into mindset of playing a teenage girl.
“I look young and I play young but I am 25. To take myself back to being a teenager, being a stroppy madam, thinking you know best, wanting to look good all the time, I’m finding that quite hard actually. I’m not the sort of girl who will wear false eyelashes and heels on a night out, I wear trainers and a bit of mascara.”
CHIP SHOP CHIPS is to open Box of Tricks 10th anniversary year and is part of three new plays produced by the Manchester theatre company, all performed in different ways. Alongside a six-week national tour of PLASTIC FIGURNES and a run of NARVIK at Liverpool Playhouse Studio (in association with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse), CHIP SHOP CHIPS will tour in some unusual venues across the North including village halls, community centres and libraries. The idea is to bring the play to audiences who usually wouldn’t attend the theatre by tempting them with a dinner, a dance and a show, all rolled into one!
“It’s not just a show, you get a chippy tea, you get to take part in a quiz, there’s loads of little things” explains Jessica.
“My dad, he’s not the sort of person who would go to the theatre and watch it but when I’m encouraging my dad and my friends to come and watch it, we’re selling it as a night.”
The prospect of performing in some unusual locations to connect with the audience is one of the reasons Jessica chose to audition for the play.
“I think it’s exciting and it’s innovative” explains Jessica. “It’s nothing like I’ve done before.”
“In TV, people wait on you hand and foot, whereas with this, it’s definitely all hands on deck.”
“It’s just something to be proud of because once you’ve worked so intensely as a team, relying on each other not just to get the lines right but to be there to set up and little silly things, it makes you a little more proud of the piece.”
Rehearsal for CHIP SHOP CHIPS only started last week but it has already given Jessica a taste for theatre life.
“I would absolutely love to do more theatre. I love it” comments Jessica.
“I love stage and l love the instant gratification [laughs]. I’ve played quite a few comedic roles and you think, “Is that joke funny?” because no-one is laughing on TV whereas if you’re doing it on stage and you get a laugh, that’s good.”
“I’m hoping to do the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. I’ve wrote a little something with my friend so we’re going to take that up to Edinburgh if I’m not working on a television job. That’s something I’m definitely going to do. So maybe 2016 will be a big theatrical year for me?”
Jessica Forrest makes her stage debut in CHIP SHOP CHIPS which makes its premiere at The Hub in Salford from 17 to 18 February before heading out on tour until 23 March 2016. Visit Box of Tricks for the full tour list and to book tickets.