Jasmine: Hello Gareth. I am calling from Jasmine Storm’s reviews. We met yesterday.
Gareth: Oh of course we did. How are you?
Jasmine: I’m good thank you. How are you? Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Gareth: Not at all.
Jasmine: Were you a fan of the films (Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp) and how did it impact your take of the role of Mr Wonka?
Gareth: Well, I saw both films when they came out. I’m a huge fan of the Gene Wilder film and I love Gene Wilder. He was one of my favourite actors of all time. And also, Johnny Depp, which is a quite a different take on it. So different. And I think I took a bit from both really, I would imagine. When I was offered the job way, way last year, I revisited the films and had a look at them, and the Gene Wilder one was so very influential on my performance. Also, I came to the book very late in my life because I never read it when I was a child. It wasn’t in my household. And so, I read that recently too. I decided that the best thing to do was just work on the adaptation of the script and take the cues really from there. Obviously, I was influenced by the book, naturally. How could you not be? I wanted to put my stamp on it, so to speak and just interpret what the writers had written. Which is a very accurate and, in some ways, it’s more complex character they’ve written. They’ve brought out a lot of his mercurial side of his character and all the different facets. Willy Wonka – I feel sorry for him because he has made this decision to lock himself away. He decided because of the betrayal of his workers who stole all his secrets and set up their own businesses. And in our version, he locked himself away for 40 years. Therefore, denied himself of any relationship, or interaction with any human beings. So in some ways I feel sorry for him for that. When we meet him in the show, he bears all those scars of those betrayals. I feel sorry for him and no wonder he is a bit wonky.
Jasmine: A Wonky Wonka! (giggles)
Gareth: (laughs) A Wonky Wonka yeah!
Jasmine: This leads me nicely onto my next question. What part of Wonka do you like and is there any part of his character you would change?
Gareth: I’m not fobbing you off or trying to avoid the question but I love all his aspects of his character. I love the way he adores children. He hasn’t had any children of his own and I think he has a deep understanding of children. I can understand why he enjoys their company so much; their naivety and their open-mindedness and their fearlessness very much like the children who play Charlie in our show. These wonderful, wonderful young adults, 11- and 12-year-olds, they have a fearlessness you know. An unflappability about them and I think Wonka loves that. It’s the parents he doesn’t like.
Gareth: Because the parents have made such bad choices in their parenting really. The kids who make all those errors and mistakes and don’t heed his warnings, it’s not their fault really. It’s the way they have been brought up of course. So, I like that aspect of his character. And I love his warmth at the end when we see the true Wonka where he is overcome by this amazing child, who he just sees himself in. So, I love at the end of the show where they’ve got the elevator, because I get a lovely ride in an elevator…
Gareth: Because he is so warm. And his compassion; suddenly we see all this compassion in the man and that’s slightly unexpected, and for me that’s the true Wonka.
Jasmine: What is your favourite line in the show?
Gareth: As for the best line, oh my god, you’ve flummoxed me with that. I’ve never been asked that question. What is the best line? Oh my goodness. I can’t think off the top of my head.
Jasmine: My son said to me, when I told him I was interviewing you, I asked him what his favourite line was and he quoted the one where Gene Wilder says ‘Good day to you Sir’ and slams his fist down on the table. And I thought that was such an obscure line for him to have remembered.
Gareth: laughs It really is yeah. Oh, my lord, I’m sorry, I can’t think.
Jasmine: That’s okay. Let’s carry on with the other questions and if something comes back to you…
Gareth: Okay yes, I will.
Jasmine: Do you think the kids in the audience scared of Wonka?
Gareth: Oh yes. I think so. In fact, one of the producers said I might be a little bit scary at the end of act one. But I think they should be. I don’t think he is angry; I just think he is eccentric. And he speaks his mind. He doesn’t pull any punches with it. That’s his journey really. So, they should be scared of him, because that’s his journey as well. Dramatically of course during the evening, that’s what happens to him. They see this weird and wonderful character, and gradually see him gravitate towards Charlie. And realise Oh my god – its me. You know when he was a kid. He sees himself and then gives him his factory. So, it’s important for his dramatic journey that kids should be frightened of him to begin with, I think.
Jasmine: Do you enjoy the light moments of the Wonka role?
Gareth: Oh yeah, I love it. I love playing with the script and with the audience as well. That’s one of my joys. I love it. I love doing all that and it gives me the licence to do really whatever I want. And I used to say ‘Are you sure? Think about that. Are you sure?’. He sometimes says ‘I’m not quite sure about that’ and might edit some of the things I do as I am a bit cheeky. A bit too cheeky.
Jasmine: So, sometimes, do you go off script?
Gareth: Well not so much off script, but sometimes I put in a few ad-libs. Cheeky ad-libs.
Jasmine: Do you eat chocolate and if so, what is your favourite confectionary?
Gareth: I do eat chocolate. I’ve been asked this lots of times. Not because I’m playing Willy Wonka. I love chocolate. And I’ve had to really, really, really resist my normal intake, because there is only so many times that the wardrobe can release the waistband of my trousers.
Jasmine: Do people send you chocolate?
Gareth: Oh yes. In fact, I had a package today from somebody with chocolate cake in it.
Gareth: So yes, I do get quite a bit of chocolate. I try to spread it around the company so I don’t eat too much.
Jasmine: And if you are able to set me up with a lifetime’s supply of chocolate, I’m your girl!
Gareth: laughs Get in the queue!
Gareth and Jasmine laugh heartily.
Jasmine: That’s all my questions unless you have remembered a favourite line.
Gareth: oh gosh. My mind is an absolute blank.
Jasmine: I don’t know if you’ve got this in the show, I’ll find out when I come to see you tonight, but I like the part of the Gene Wilder film, where I always remember the licking the wallpaper scene.
Gareth: That’s great yes. That is fantastic yes. ‘The rugs and carpets you can eat and best of all the wallpaper needs licking’. I do love that. Fabulous. Yes. That’s a good one. Love that.
Jasmine: Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking to you and I’m really looking forward to seeing the show tonight.
Gareth: Ahh great. Well, I hope you enjoy it.
Jasmine: Thank you.
Interview 10 February 2023