By Hook or by Hook
Jo Forest doesn't get to have a quiet Christmas. Like thousands of performers she will be fitting in the last of her present shopping around performing in panto; this year she has the bonus of being on the doorstep of some good shops as she finds herself in Bromley but that's not the best bit:
"I'm excited to be back at the Churchill Theatre. Doctor Doolittle had its opening night here so I'm really pleased to be here again and doing Peter Pan." Jo is playing Wendy to Jennifer Ellison's Peter; Principal Boy Ellison, who will be familiar to many for Brookside and Dancing on Ice, is also making a return visit to the Churchill having toured Calendar Girls there last year.
Ace Bhatti, EastEnders's nasty Dr Yusef Khan, is the equally dastardly Captain Hook with Balamory’s Andrew Agnew as sidekick Smee and CBBC presenter Gemma Hunt as Tinker Bell.
Jo is no stranger to playing Wendy and has worked alongside a number of villainous Captain Hooks that have included Shane Ritchie, Paul Nicholas and Leslie Grantham; her appearances in the role are into double figures, so isn't she bored? "No!" she says "it’s been a completely new experience every time I've done it and I've always really enjoyed it." Wendy's adventure of growing up is clearly one she enjoys and this year is clearly no exception.
At a diminutive five feet, slender at that, and with a pretty, youthful face that belies her actual age it's not hard to see why Jo keeps getting cast as Wendy. There is a vulnerability there too that coupled with her clear mezzo soprano brings to mind roles like Éponine from Les Mis or Sweeney Todd's Johanna.
But be under no illusions that Jo Forest's delicate outside is mirrored by a feeble inside.
She is a spirited woman who chose her career early and has been working professionally since childhood. Attending secondary school and the performing arts course at The Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, she made her West End debut at the age of 13 at the huge Dominion Theatre in Bernadette the Musical: "I absolutely loved it" she says of it, remembering it as being exciting rather than frightening.