EVERYTHING should have been Beautiful for Jordan Fox in 2020.
“I was in the tour of Beautiful, the Carole King musical, at the start of the year, and then that got cancelled by the pandemic lockdown,” says the West End actor from West Yorkshire. “The tour had been such fun, but when I got back to London from Cardiff, I got the email to say ‘Don’t go to the next theatre’.”
Based in London for the past couple of years, starring in Kinky Boots and Friendsical, the Friends-parodying musical, Jordan has moved back to Yorkshire in lockdown.
Now he finds himself in the title role – Jack, not the allotment staple – in York Stage’s pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, from Friday at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.
“Me and Nik [writer-director Nik Briggs] went to university together at Bretton Hall [the Grade 2 listed building on the Yorkshire Sculpture Park estate, near Wakefield]. It was like Hogwarts! I loved it!” says Jordan, who studied there from 2006 to 2009.
“I was in the first year when Nik was in the second year and we ended up doing some projects together and getting on really well.”
Now 32, Jordan says: “We’ve chatted a few times, but because he’s based in York and I’ve been in London we’ve kind of missed each other’s paths. So, it feels really lovely to be doing this panto.
“Nik messaged me and said, ‘I know you’re based in London but we’re looking for Yorkshire actors’, and I said, ‘well, I’m coming back, can I do it?’.”
Jordan was born in Bradford and grew up in Huddersfield and his family now lives in Holmfirth. “I’ve moved back home, living with my partner in Holmfirth, and if I get a West End show again, I’ll rent down there and keep the house up here,” he says.
He performed in Lawrence Batley Theatre pantomimes in Huddersfield in his childhood. “Then, in 2014-2015, I was Peter Pan in Peter Pan with Dean Gaffney as my Captain Hook, and now I’m doing Jack And The Beanstalk, so I’ve had a green theme to my pantos, it seems!”
Deep into tech week now for his role as Jack, Jordan says: “The great thing that Nik has done with the script is that he’s really massively acknowledged the present pandemic situation, with all the social distancing.
“We make lots of references: we can air-hug, play air guitar, without us breaking any rules. We’re using a traverse stage design too [with the audience seated in bubbles to either side], and we can really fill that space in a different way when, even though we can’t do traditional panto things, we can figure out new ways and it’s always nice to do that.”
Jordan is enjoying reacquainting himself with the pantomime world for a second time. “For me, there was a really big gap between doing it when I was young and then getting back into it for Peter Pan, and now it’s good to be doing it again,” he says.
“I love the simple fairy-tales, the silliness of it all, whereas normally [with musicals] you don’t ever have the free rein to do anything like that. With panto, if something goes wrong, it’s great to be able to include the audience in it.”
As for playing Jack, Jordan says: “As I’ve read him, he’s northern, probably sounding like I did before going to London! I’ll be letting my Yorkshire heritage take over.
“He’s just a dreamer, who wants to be up in the clouds. I can get on board with that: I’m an actor; I can get lost in stories! Jack is simplistic in his ideals, not weighed down by anything. Instead of the norms of adulthood, he’s still letting himself dream, which we can all connect with.”
Dreams have been put on hold in Covid-19 2020. “It was so disorientating when Beautiful stopped. A lot of actors, when we’re not working in shows, work in bars, teach kids, do gigs, basically anything where there’s a crowd, but because everything stopped, it was an anxiety-ridden couple of months,” says Jordan.
“It felt like the world falling from beneath you, but luckily I had some savings, and I started doing some ‘assisting engineering’ work, basically handing people tools.”
Then came Nik’s invitation to climb a beanstalk in a York theatre. “This is a dream come true and I’m so happy to be here,” says Jordan. “It’s been so frustrating for the theatre world this year, when it seems like the Government doesn’t make the effort to go and get someone like [theatre producer] Cameron Mackintosh to ‘tell us what we should be doing’.”
Treading the boards once more at last, Jordan says: “When you come to a show, you never leave the theatre the same person as when you arrived, and that’s what we’ve all been missing.”
Dare to dream, like Jack, like Jordan, of better times ahead. In the meantime, enjoy the uplift, the joy, the daftness, of pantomime.
York Stage presents Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, from December 11 to January 3; show times, Monday to Saturday, 2pm and 7pm; Sundays, 1pm and 6pm; Christmas Eve, 12 noon and 5pm; New Year’s Eve, 12 noon. Box office: online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only.