“We have a lot of queer people making their own work and employing other queer people to be a part of it and it becomes a melting pot of joy”
BY KEAH LILY, IMAGE BY MICHAEL WHARLEY
Following a successful premier in Nottingham, Mark Gatiss’ adaptation of A Christmas Carol takes on London at Alexandra Palace Theatre. Nicholas Farrell appears as Scrooge, and Gatiss himself plays Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s deceased business partner, in this spooky adaptation of Dickens’ classic.
I’m fortunate enough to get the chance to chat with Jo Eaton-Kent, who plays the Ghost of Christmas Past (as well as a number of supporting roles throughout) whose famous line, “These are but shadows of the things that have been” sent shivers down my spine.
Hi Jo, would you like to introduce yourself and your work to our DIVA readers?
My name is Jo Eaton-Kent (she/her, they/them) I’m best known for my role as Corporal Cherry in the BBC drama The Watch. I also did a series with BBC called Don’t Forget The Driver, where I was the first trans-feminine non-binary actor to play a non-binary main role in a British TV series. I’ve been doing a lot of stage work recently. And I’ve got a short film that I created during lockdown that you can watch on YouTube for free.
A Christmas Carol is a Dickens classic. Were you a fan of the book, film and shows when you were growing up?
I remember watching the muppets version over and over when I was younger. That was my go-to. I did read the book as a child and then revisited it again with the casting of this production. Having read the book again for this job, I think it’s amazing the way Dickens writes. The lyrical quality to the speech patterns I think comes down to Dickens actually being an actor himself when he was younger. He must of put a lot of love into it to get that rhythmic, lyrical quality.
Alexandra Palace is such a historical venue and the perfect space for such a spooky adaptation. What’s the experience been like rehearsing and now performing there?
We are one of the first productions to come in and make a piece of theatre which caters to the space itself. The space looks like it’s crumbling – of course, all health and safety checks have been carried out, but it looks like it’s falling apart. Our set designer Paul Wills aimed to bring elements of this into the design, by using as many organic materials, combined with the rust and old tears of the building. The set is beautiful. The play feels like it’s made to be in that space.
What’s your favourite scene in this adaptation of the play?
I really like the Cratchit’s dinner table, because it’s a moment of brevity. It’s a moment of lightness. I also love the party scene at the end, where Scrooge has been redeemed and he goes to his nephew’s house and asks, “Will you let me come in for dinner?” It’s lovely. We all stand around and sort of watch him enjoy himself and be a little nervous with it.
How have you found navigating the acting world?
As a trans-woman/trans-non-binary, I’m flitting between the two. It’s difficult because of the amount of parts there are available, or rather the limited parts available. It’s difficult because you have so much to offer. But people have very limited imaginations as to what you can do. People like to stereotype and to say, “This is what you do, this is what you don’t do”. Bias comes into play so frequently, but it’s like, “Hey, fully rounded human-being over here”. We, as trans people are a terribly misrepresented, misunderstood and underrepresented community.
Being the only trans person in the room is so difficult… you know what they say about strength in numbers. Being the only one makes you feel like you have to yield. In response to this we have a lot of queer people making their own work and employing other queer people to be a part of it and it becomes a melting pot of joy.
If you could give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
Don’t listen to people who make you feel bad. They are their own prejudice. Their own insecurity of themselves is nothing to do with me. How they’re trying to make me feel, I can respond to. I can choose to not let it affect me. It’s easier said than done. But we’re all entitled to exist. It is your right to exist in the same space as other people because that’s the world we live in. We should be able to do that and not feel like imposters.
In the spirit of Christmas, what is your favourite thing to do over the holiday season?
Well, last year me and my partner ordered a curry on Christmas day, which was lovely! I love singing Christmas carols, mainly to myself. [It] really brings me into the festive community spirit.
And before we get to the end of the call, is there anything else you’d like to share?
Come and see us at Alexandra Palace. You can find us on socials @xmascarolldn and @yourallypally. It’s a really good show. It’s 11 performers, and some kids doing more than 50 roles. Working our butts off!
A Christmas Carol is running in Alexandra Palace theatre from 26 November to the 9 January 2022.
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