Edinburgh Playhouse is welcoming another smash-hit musical this week, and this time it’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where Gareth Snook plays Willy Wonka. The tour will visit the Scottish capital between Wednesday, March 29 and Saturday, April 15.
Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical tells the diabolically sweet story of a young golden ticket winner Charlie Bucket and the mysterious misunderstood character Willy Wonka. When Charlie wins a golden ticket to the wonderfully strange Wonka Chocolate Factory, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime to feast on as many sweet treats a child could ever wish.
Secret Edinburgh spoke to actor Gareth Snook who will play Willy Wonka in the UK and Ireland tour of the new production. Gareth Snook’s colourful West End theatre credits include Monsieur André in The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre and also the 25th Anniversary production at the Royal Albert Hall, Les Misérables at the Palace Theatre, My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. So, here’s a chance to look deeper into the misunderstood character’s world.
What is the reason behind choosing acting as a career?
Everyone has their own story of how they became who they are today, how they’ve arrived where they are now. Gareth pursued acting in a traditional way from an early age, inspired by a Shakespeare-loving drama teacher: “The drama teacher that I had in school was amazing, and he became one of the greatest drama teachers in the county. […] He was quite inspirational and he started putting me in his school plays.”, shared the actor. “Fortunately, the industry was really kind to me, so I count myself as one of the lucky ones.”
What do you need to enter this industry as an actor?
“If you think that there is absolutely nothing else you can do, that’s it. There is no other thing that you can even bare thinking about, then, really, you’re half way there.”, Gareth Snook expressed. While there is no clear path one has to take in order to be successful, living and breathing your craft is a great place to start.
Why is Willy Wonka an often misunderstood character?
When playing a character, one has to understand them, and even love them, even if they have done not so great things. Willy Wonka can often seem like a sinister character, doing all these horrible things to the misbehaving children. However, that is not the case.
A director once told Gareth: “I don’t know where Willy ends and you start.”, he laughed. “I think he’s a terribly misunderstood character. […] He’s many many things, he’s not one thing: he’s such a mercurial person. And he’s locked himself up for 40 years, so no wonder his social skills are a little bit skewed.”, the actor laughs further.
“I think it’s the kids and the bad parenting that gets the kids in the show into a mess, because they don’t listen.”, Gareth explains. It is easy to blame a character for all the bad things they have done without questioning why they have done it or how they got there, and Willy Wonka is the perfect example of a multidimensional villain.
What would you say are the teachable moments of the story when it comes to the morality of being naughty vs. being good?
“The kids love it. […] I think children love seeing other children get into trouble. They love seeing kids going against authority, not listening. I think that’s one of its successes as a story.”, laughs the actor.
“In the end, Wonka suddenly recognises himself in Charlie. […] It’s a beautifully simple show on so many levels, yet effective.”
Overall, spectators should also walk away with the message of not judging others too quickly. “In the show, we say he’s [Willie Wonka] locked himself in for 40 years, in the book it’s only 10 because he was betrayed by the people he trusted.”
“That is why he just closed the factory down because everyone stole all his ideas, he couldn’t trust anyone. […] You don’t forget betrayal in a hurry. When he sees Charlie at first, he thinks he’s a spy, he thinks everyone’s a spy.”, explains Gareth Snook. At the end, nothing in life is black or white, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory provides a multi-layered story for both children and adults.