Ipswich: Mods and Rox star Francesca Jackson heads back in time again

Mods and Rox actress Francesca Jackson talks being lost in time, TV talent shows and Welsh, kind of, with entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE

Francesca Jackson spends more time in the past than one of Doctor Who’s companions.

“I seem to have been [stuck] between the 50s and 70s for the last two-and-a-half years,” laughs the 28-year-old, who wasn’t even born when mods and rockers battled it out on Brighton Beach.

“Dreamboats and Petticoats started it off, then I did the Dreamboats tour, Million Dollar Quartet and now I’m in Mods and Rox.”

Billed as the romantic story of a hooter on a scooter; the latest in the New Wolsey’s popular series of actor-musician musicals is set in the swinging 60s.

Sharply suited and booted King of the mods Cyril, his fists as quick as his wits, falls for Francesca’s character, Soho stunner Rox.

One thing stands between them; his large nose.

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When Italian stallion Christiano scoots into town on his Lambretta, Rox is smitten and Cyril ends up pouring his heart out to her through Christiano’s mouth.

Written by Paul Sirett – who penned last year’s amazing 20th Century Boy and Reasons to be Cheerful – this new take on Cyrano de Bergerac features great songs from the era including Keep on Runnin’, Itchycoo Park, She’s Not There, The Kids are Alright and more.

I’ve caught Francesca grabbing lunch halfway through the fourth day of rehearsals.

She can’t believe how quickly it’s going. Everybody’s already finished act one script-wise.

“It’s great. You get [the time] to go back and look at it in detail, build the meat of it. It’s written so well, he [Paul] is brilliant.

“The music is incredible in itself and the actor-musicians are so talented, I can’t already believe they’ve got through half the numbers; they sound like they’ve been playing those songs together for years.

“I’m an actress and a singer, but to be able to do what I can do and then get behind a drum kit...”

She’s not tempted to pick up a resting guitar or sax?

“No I don’t [play any instruments] I’m not as talented as the boys,” she laughs, quickly adding “but don’t tell them that.”

Having seriously mispronounced the name of a Welsh TV show she appeared in years ago it’s a relief when she confesses she can’t speak the language either, despite growing up there from the age of eight and recently appearing in a Tom Jones musical with Beth Goddard at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre.

“Not for the life of me, but the accent I’m alright with,” she smiles.

She’s a long list of stage and TV credits under her belt, including the role of Bet alongside Robert Lindsay’s Fagin in Sam Mendes’ version of Oliver at the London Palladium.

A lot of people will know Francesca from the Andrew Lloyd Webber show I’d Do Anything, where she battled it out for the role of Nancy.

What they might not know is her first job fresh out of Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts was understudying fellow contestant Rachel Tucker in Tonight’s The Night.

She also worked with How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria finalist Siobhan Dillon in Can’t Smile Without You. She also knew Any Dream Will Do winner Lee Mead having appeared in Rent with his partner Denise Van Outen.

“Yeah, it is odd,” she says.

Odder still, one of her best friends is Sound of Music star Connie Fisher. The two shared a flat while training at Mountview, continuing to live together while she was in Night and Connie competing in Maria.

Back to Mods and Rox; Francesca describes it as an all-round crowd pleaser.

“It’s the same as a show like Dreamboats and Petticoats; you’re totally entertained in every way, the script, the comedy, is brilliant, the set looks incredible and I’m really excited to get on that.

“The music, the performances; from what I’ve seen so far it will be one of those shows that will get you on your feet at the end, you’ll want to be dancing along with it.”

One scene in particular is causing her much excitement.

“I don’t want to give too much of it away but there’s a nice scene where Christiano, the Italian mod, has given me this song but hasn’t written it, Cyril the guy who’s in love with me has. I ask Christiano to sing it for me; obviously he can’t sing he doesn’t know it and Cyril is behind a tree trying to sort of mime to it. It’s a very, very, funny scene.”

Francesca’s also keen to get her hands on the costumes.

“We haven’t seen anything yet and we got told the designer wants to see what we think we should wear and how it feels personally to each character.”

She’s got her heart on a nice little 60s number if the designer’s reading this.

After Mods and Rox Francesca’s heading back to Paris’ Chatelet Theatre to do Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George.

“I did a Little Night Music at the Chatelet about a year ago; it was the year before Million Dollar Quartet. Honestly [I’ve got] such a lovely job.”

Makes me wish I could sing, or dance, or act… or speak Welsh.

Mods and Rox runs at Ipswich’s New Wolsey until September 29. Read the review online from Wednesday.

For the latest regional, national and international world news follow me on Twitter @WhatsonWayne.

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